Senator Leyva: Community College Students Need Financial Aid to Cover True Cost of Attendance

SB 291 will improve college access and student graduation rates

Thursday, February 14, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) today introduced legislation establishing the California Community College Student Financial Aid Program that would base financial aid on not only the cost of tuition, but rather on the total cost of attendance—including the cost of housing, transportation, and textbooks.

Under this new program, financial aid awards would help pay for expenses not already covered by a student’s family contributions, employment, and other aid, such as Pell Grants and the Cal Grant program. In addition, financial aid would be available whether a student is seeking a degree, certificate, or short-term career education program.  The program would be administered by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.

“The true cost of attending college is clearly more than just tuition,” Senator Leyva said. “It is critically important that our community colleges remain an affordable option for all students. When non-tuition costs like housing, food, and textbooks are considered, community college is often more expensive for our lowest-income students to attend than other state universities. SB 291 addresses this issue by creating a financial aid program that helps to cover a community college student’s whole cost of attendance.”

Just five percent of community college students received a Cal Grant last year, compared to nearly 40 percent of undergraduates at the University of California system and approximately 36 percent of students at the California State University system.  California community colleges enroll about two-thirds of the state’s undergraduate students, yet they receive only seven percent of Cal Grant funds.

“In most regions of California, the true cost of attending community college for low-income students is higher than for students at a nearby California State University or University of California campus,” stated California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “Very few community college students qualify for financial aid to cover living expenses, transportation, or textbooks. Senator Leyva’s bill seeks to address these inequities by creating the California Community College Student Financial Aid Program.”

While California’s community colleges offer among the least expensive tuition rates in the country at $46 per unit, the actual cost of attending a community college for a student living independently is more than $20,000 annually when housing, transportation, textbooks, and personal items are taken into account. Today, a California community college student receiving the maximum amount of aid possible would still fall thousands of dollars short. Very few community college students qualify for financial aid to cover living expenses, transportation or textbooks, and low-income students with unmet financial need have limited choices: work more hours, take fewer courses, accumulate what can become crushing debt, or drop out of school.

“Far too often, community college students are left out of the conversation of equity especially when it comes to financial aid,” said Alexander Walker-Griffin, the voting student representative on the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. “With the cost of living rising in California and the need for a college degree becoming more of a requirement for financial stability, it is imperative that we give every student the financial ability to achieve their goals”

SB 291 is co-sponsored by the California Community Colleges and Community College League of California. The measure is co-authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).

Following today’s introduction, SB 291 will be considered by the appropriate Senate committee(s) later this spring.