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California looks to make college more affordable with more than $47 billion budget

Posted: 4:08 PM, Oct 06, 2021
Updated: 2021-10-07 17:16:58-04
college students

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — The United States Department of Education says college graduates with a bachelor’s degree typically earn 66 percent more than someone with only a high school diploma. But not everyone is able to get a college degree because of the rising cost of higher education.

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed seven bills into law that he said will help combat that issue by making college more affordable across the state of California. It marked the most funding for higher education in modern history.

How much does it cost to attend a four-year college in California?

The average annual in-state four-year college tuition in California was $24,481 for the 2019-2020 academic year. This is a change of ($458) from the 2018-2019 average of $24,939 and represents a -1.84% annual decline.

Our guide surveyed tuition data from the 144 four-year colleges and universities in California, the most popular being the University of California Los Angeles with 42,895 full-time students and an in-state tuition list price of $11,442. Harvey Mudd College is the most expensive four-year school in California with an in-state tuition of $58,359.

“$47.1 billion unprecedented historic budget for higher education in the state of California," said Governor Newsom at the signing. "Mark this moment - $47 billion.”

Two of those bills focused on housing and financial aid applications.

Assembly Bill 469 will require the state to facilitate the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application and the California Dream Act on or before September 1st each year.

What is the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form you need to fill out to get any financial aid from the federal government to help pay for college. Each year, over 13 million students who file the FAFSA get more than $120 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Education.

Lots of states and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine which students get financial aid—and how much they’ll get.

The FAFSA asks for information about you and your family’s finances, including tax returns, so you’ll need your parents’ help to complete it.

What is the California Dream Act?

The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (U.S. Citizens and eligible non-citizens) who qualify for a non-resident exemption under Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) to receive certain types of financial aid such as: private scholarships funded through public universities, state-administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers, and Cal Grants. In addition, the California Dream Act, allows eligible students to pay in-state tuition at any public college in California.

The bill points out that "California’s student financial aid application process is overly complex and burdensome to students and families." And that many students don't fill out the FAFSA "because they believe they are ineligible, have no information on how to apply, think that the forms are too much work, or do not want to share personal information because of deportation fears."

As a result, California currently ranks 30th in the nation in FAFSA application rates.

The bill looks to accomplish the following steps:

  • Allow California to maximize the number of its students who apply for and receive federal and state financial aid without creating an undue burden that prevents some students from graduating, without impacting student or parent immigration status, and with full protection for student and parent data.
  • Establish a coordinated completion campaign for all existing statewide efforts to increase financial aid application completion rates, which include, but are not limited to, all of the following: the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP), the 2019–20 “Race to Submit,” Assembly Bill 2015 (Chapter 533 of the Statutes of 2018) implementation, the Cash for College Program workshops, automatic grade point average verification for all grade 12 pupils, Assembly Bill 2160 (Chapter 679 of the Statutes of 2014), and outreach to increase enrollment in the California College Promise Innovation Grant Program.
  • Give local educational agencies direction and discretion on how to coordinate and assist families and students in the completion of financial aid applications.
  • Require implementation in compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g) and applicable state laws such as Chapters 493 and 495 of the Statutes of 2017.
  • Give students the freedom to choose the pathway that is best for them after high school, whether that be postsecondary education or pursuing an occupational or technical program.
  • Help California close the 2,000,000-degree gap so that California has the skilled workers necessary to be competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s economy.

AB-469 Pupil instruction: financial aid applications

AB 1377, another popular bill signed by Newsom on Wednesday will require the California State University and University of California (UC) systems to conduct a needs assessment for student housing and create a student housing plan with a focus on more affordable housing.

“That housing is half of the cost of going to college, not tuition, books and food and transportation, but housing is the big thing," explained Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (Sacramento). "So this year we put in the budget the pot of $2 billion to fund expansion of housing for CSU, UC, and community colleges."

The bill requires the Chancellor of the California State University shall, and the Office of the President of the University of California to:

  • Conduct a needs assessment to determine the projected student housing needs, by campus, for the 2022–23 fiscal year to the 2026–27 fiscal year, inclusive, taking into account the projected enrollment growth and the goal of closing the degree gap.
  • Create a student housing plan, with a focus on affordable student housing, that outlines how they will meet the projected student housing needs, by campus. The student housing plan shall include the specific actions to be taken for the 2022–23 fiscal year to the 2026–27 fiscal year, inclusive.
  • Every three years after July 1, 2022, the Office of the Chancellor of the California State University shall, and the Office of the President of the University of California is requested to, review and update the student housing plan, and include the specific actions to be taken in the next five fiscal years.

AB-1377 Student housing plans

Governor Newsom said the reason California is able to invest this much into higher education is because of California’s surplus.

“There’s a reason we are making historic investments in higher education, it's because we had a historic budget surplus this year. Testament to your hard work. $80 billion."

And he adds it's all a part of the California dream.

“Folks were starting to question the dream. I remind people all the time there’s two dreams: the American dream and the California dream. No other state attaches itself to the dream.”

23ABC reached out to CSUB for comment but they said they cannot yet comment on bills that have just been signed.

Another bill that Governor Newsom signed looked to make it easier for students in community colleges to transfer into the state’s public universities.

According to the Associated Press, the legislation "streamlines a process students have described as a maze. By smoothing the path to the University of California’s campuses and California State University, the state hopes to increase the numbers of transfer students to four-year colleges and close equity gaps. The new law simplifies a program that guarantees priority admission to Cal State schools for students with associate degrees."

The bill also requires the UC and Cal State systems to agree on a common set of courses that community college students need to take to transfer.