The California State Legislature is poised to approve a state budget that includes key steps forward on the path to affordable college. The budget includes the largest-ever increase in the number of ‘competitive’ Cal Grants – those available to nontraditional students – a top priority of legislative leaders, students, civil rights groups, businesses, and other advocates for higher education equity. It also expands Cal Grant access to and creates service incentive grants for undocumented students, provides summer-term financial aid to eligible students, and provides larger grants to student parents in line with Governor Newsom’s priority to invest more in children and families. The budget also includes targeted investments to address basic needs insecurity among students enrolled in California’s public colleges and universities, the prevalence of which is symptomatic of California’s ongoing college affordability crisis that extends far beyond tuition and fees.
These investments are important down payments towards broader state financial aid reforms which remain desperately needed. Even with the increases included in this budget, hundreds of thousands of eligible low- and middle-income Californians, including the majority of student parents, will continue to be denied state grants because too few of them are funded. Low-income students will continue to bear disproportionate burdens of student loan debt. We thank Assembly and Senate leaders, as well as Governor Newsom whose signature on the budget is expected in the coming weeks, for the new, significant investments in college affordability, as well as for their continued commitment to simplify and strengthen state need-based financial aid in the coming years to bring college costs truly within reach for all Californians.