Bill Introduced That Would Create Greater College Affordability and Equity for Low-Income Students in California

Eric Gudz sleeps in car during a 2018 city council campaign raising awareness for student homelessness

Special To the Vanguard

California students are facing severe hardship as the cost of education and living has greatly increased, and current aid programs leave as much as a nearly $10,000 gap in the coverage.

Seeking to address this problem, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has introduced AB 288 that would increase access to California’s public colleges and universities by preventing schools from reducing financial aid grants if a student is also awarded a private scholarship.

“As California students struggle with how to achieve their dream of earning a college degree, we must not punish students who are fortunate enough to receive a private scholarship,” said Bonta.

He explained, “This is a common practice known as scholarship displacement. During this economic recession, it’s even more urgent that we help low-income students who may have no other means to pay for the complete cost of colleges.”

According to a National Scholarship Providers Association survey of higher education institutions, 50 percent report reducing institutional financial aid thereby requiring students to come up with additional money that would have been covered by the private scholarship.

For example, a college student receives a $5,000 private scholarship which was intended to cover unmet need, but the institution uses the private scholarship to replace institutional grants. If the private scholarship was to be used to supplement the institutional grant instead of replace it, the student could have saved $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. Instead, the college saves money by using a scholarship the student earned and the student is left to cover the costs.

Currently, the Cal Grant program leaves students with unmet financial need. For the lowest-income students attending the University of California system, the average unmet need is more than $9,000 per year when all types of non-private aid are considered.[1]

AB 288 would prohibit displacement of student aid awards when a student receives a private scholarship to attend a California college or university. The bill would apply to students with an EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) of $0 (zero). This threshold would protect approximately 40% of students in California who receive financial aid.

“The cost of attending college is more than tuition, fees, and books,” said Bonta. “And we know the full cost is much higher than the typical financial aid award. A small scholarship can make a big difference and keep a student on track to graduate instead of being forced to drop out.”

In a recent national survey of nearly 86,000 college students, 56% had been housing insecure in the past year and 17% had been homeless.

“When a college education is lauded as one of the greatest ladders out of intergenerational poverty, it is painfully ironic when financial barriers keep lower-income students from accessing this very ladder,” Bonta said. “AB 288 will make a positive difference for students who are doing all they can to pull together funding to secure their dream of attending college.”

A.B. 288 is sponsored by Northern California College Promise Coalition, and is supported by Oakland Promise, Richmond Promise, Stockton Scholars, San Jose Promise, 1000 Degrees, Students Rising Above, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Oakland NAACP, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), Southern California College Access Network (SoCalCAN), Bay Area College Success Network, and Scholarship America.

“Allowing students from low-income families to maximize every dollar they are awarded in scholarships and grants can be the tipping point that enables them to eat breakfast before a final exam, or buy books on time for their first class. That can make the difference between dropping out or graduating” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “This bill brings us another step closer to equity and is a true example of the power of public-private partnerships. I’m excited that students will be able to leverage every public and private dollar they win toward the completion of their college degrees.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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1 Comment

  1. Alan Miller

    a college student receives a $5,000 private scholarship which was intended to cover unmet need, but the institution uses the private scholarship to replace institutional grants.

    What a scam.  A chess game with college students as the pawns.  I don’t know if this bill will help, but at least it educates students how to get on in a socialist culture like a State college.

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