On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom highlighted the 2019 Budget Act and what he called historic actions to “help families tackle affordability challenges in health care, housing, child care and education, including higher education and early childhood education.”
Among other things, the governor highlighted $280 million earmarked for programs that would help people pay for college:
Two years free community college
No tuition hikes for UC and CSU
$1.75 billion for housing production and new, strong incentives to spur more housing
$120 a month to help middle class families to buy health insurance
A $1,000 tax credit for working families by doubling the current state Earned Income Tax Credit
One additional month of paid family leave
Historic investments in schools, child care, preschool and full-day kindergarten
“There are a lot of challenging issues in this state and we have a lot of work to do,” the governor said on Monday. “Nothing more challenging than what’s up on this board addressing the issues of affordability.
“California’s growing, growing at a rate substantially higher than the United States of America,” he said. “But we’re not just about growth. We’re about conclusion. We have to mind the gap, between the haves and the have-nots.”
“We’re not just focusing on re-distribution, we’re focusing on pre-distribution,” Governor Newsom explained. “Focus on what the speaker was focused on, and that is opportunity gap. Focusing on the readiness gap.
“We focus a lot on the achievement gap, but the achievement gap is not just something that manifests after you get into Kindergarten and you get into college. It’s something that begins at the beginning,” he said.
The governor laid out seven critical steps for which he budgeted $280 million. He pointed out that the average graduate from a California four-year university owed over $22 thousand upon graduate. The governor is hoping to cap some of the college costs.
The governor has included $41.8 million to increase competitive Cal Grant awards, which will make more funding available to non-traditional students from low- and middle-income backgrounds.
These are grants that are reserved for students that do not qualify for other awards, as about 25,750 each year are awarded, but over 300,000 eligible applicants do not receive any awards.
Under the new program, low-income students with dependent children could receive up to $6000 which would help cover living costs and other expenses that are associated with college.
The budget includes $50 million for a one-time expenditure to support the Child Savings Account program, directing half of the money to local programs that give incentives for families to start child savings accounts.
In places like San Francisco, each public school student receives $50 for a college savings account through a program that Gavin Newsom created during his tenure as mayor. Now through the ScholarShare matching grant program, the state will match up to $225 of initial deposits for parents with a household income of $75,000 or less.
The state legislature also approved the governor’s proposal that makes two years of community college free for first-time students, which expands the existing program from one year of free tuition.
“When we’re talking about financial aid for community college students, any additional aid is helpful,” said Kaitlyn MacGregor, the communications and public information officer at Sacramento City College. “A lot of our students qualify for financial aid. A lot of them work part time. We see ourselves as a bridge to whatever they have planned next.”
At the CSU system, only about 20 percent of students graduate in four years. Additional years add to college expenses. The goal now is to help students graduate on time, and the Graduation Initiative 2025 will receive $45 million ongoing General Fund in addition to a $30 million one-time investment to support the program.
“Graduation rates are at all-time highs and equity gaps are narrowing,” said Toni Molle, the director of public affairs at California State University. “Additional funding for Graduation Initiative 2025 would enable CSU to continue investing in strategies that support student success — adding more faculty, course sections, advising and increasing student and academic support programs.”
Finally, there are Summer Cal Grants, where the budget provides $4 million to the University of California and $6 million to the California State University to waive summer tuition and fees for eligible students.
“Having the extension of the Cal Grant program into the summer is an important step to ensure that all Californians have access to an education to graduate in four years,” said Caroline Siegel Singh, the President of the University of California Students Association and a junior at the University of California, San Diego.
—David M. Greenwald reporting