California community college leaders push to increase Cal Grant state aid
- The California Community Colleges Board of Governors has put forward a $1.5 billion budget proposal to increase support for Cal Grants, the state's main financial aid source, offered to community college students, according to EdSource.
- A report found that in some areas of the state, students at the CCC system's 115 institutions pay more for their education — considering living costs, tuition and financial aid — than do students in the state's two university systems. Critics say Cal Grants are unfair to community college students because they favor recent high school graduates and contribute to community college students' cost of supplies and living expenses but not tuition.
- The Cal Grant program is one of the "most generous" state aid programs, though the changes have legislative supporters. Currently, community college students can receive up to $1,672 annually in Cal Grant funds and a tuition waiver of up to $1,380 through a separate state grant, but the proposal would increase the Cal Grant portion to a maximum of $3,000 in 2019-20.
A 2017 report from the Institute for College Access and Success suggested that low-income students at the state's public colleges struggle to pay for the combined costs associated with college, resulting in high debt and high drop-out rates. The report compared total costs at nine University of California System campuses and nearby California State University System and California Community Colleges System campuses, finding the local CCC location to be the priciest option in seven of the nine comparisons.
The report advises policymakers to consider the overall cost of attending an institution to low-income students when undertaking initiatives such as reducing student reliance on debt or increasing graduation rates.
Those non-tuition costs are often unavoidable and can be a burden to students.
The University of California and California State University systems have reported considerable rates of food and housing insecurity on their campuses, due in part to skyrocketing housing costs in the state's metros, according to The Mercury News.
Nationally, a study from researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab showed that 36% of college students said they are food or housing insecure, and 9% reported being homeless. The numbers were higher among community colleges, specifically, with 42% saying they struggled to find sufficient food and 46% saying they had trouble affording housing and utilities.
Several reports show that housing expenses for community college students, who generally live off-campus, are the same or more than those living in dormitories, depending on local housing costs.
Two other costs – for transportation and books and materials – also take a considerable chunk from student budgets. The National Association of College Stores reports that students spent about $580 during the 2016-17 academic year on 10 required course materials, and $506 on technology and school supplies. Another estimate put transportation costs for full-time community college students at about $1,760 annually.
Some colleges are trying to lower non-tuition expenses. Ohio University, for example, this year hopes to save its student body $1 million in textbook costs by offering more cloud-based material.