California College Affordability Bill Tracker 2019

CALmatters is teaming up with student journalists to track some of the most important college affordability bills working their way through the California Legislature.

This tracker is part of the Cost of College project, a collaboration between CALmatters and student journalists to cover college affordability around the state. Reporting by Vrinda Chauhan, Ethan Coston, Aidan McGloin and Felicia Mello. Interactive by John Osborn D'Agostino. This project and other higher education coverage are supported by the College Futures Foundation.

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SB 291: Community College Financial Aid

By Sen. Connie Leyva (D)

Stalled in Assembly

Assembly

Governor

What it does

Dramatically expand financial aid to community college students to help cover their total cost of attendance, including books and living expenses. Phased in over six years, the new award would eventually cover the entire gap between what community college costs and what a student can afford to contribute, at a cost of $1.5 billion.

While SB 291 is not moving forward this year, its author says she will continue to work towards financial aid expansion next year, so the bill could resurface then.

Why it matters

Ironically, low-income students often pay more out of pocket to attend community college than they would at a UC or CSU campus, according to a recent report by The Institute for College Access and Success. That’s because state financial aid is largely tied to tuition prices, which are lower at community colleges—but all students must contend with California’s high cost of living.

Supporters

  • Community colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley
  • Several community college districts
  • California Federation of Teachers

Opponents

  • None on record, but the bill’s hefty price tag guarantees scrutiny
  • It’s competing with AB 1314, a $2 billion plan to overhaul the state’s Cal Grant program

AB 930: CSU Executive Compensation

By Asm. Todd Gloria (D)

In Senate Appropriations Committe

Senate

Governor

What it does

Freeze salaries to CSU’s campus presidents, chancellor and chancellor’s top staff in any year in which the CSU increases tuition. Require annual spending reports from each campus.

Why it matters

CSU tuition has almost doubled since 2008, while the average executive salary has increased from $295,000 to $333,000, adjusted for inflation. That’s faster than faculty salaries have grown, according to a 2016 state audit, but less fast than middle-management and staff salaries.

Supporters

  • California Faculty Association
  • Cal State Students Association
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Opponents

  • CSU, arguing it undermines its authority and is unnecessary given that it isn’t boosting tuition this year.

AB 302: Overnight Parking

By Asm. Marc Berman (D)

In Senate Appropriations Committe

Senate

Governor

What it does

Require community colleges to keep parking lots open overnight so homeless students can sleep there.

Why it matters

Supporters consider it a temporary measure while they devise a long-term fix to address the student housing crisis—one study found one in five California community college students has been homeless within the last year. Remaining questions: who would provide security at the lots, and at what cost?

Supporters

  • Student Senate for California Community Colleges
  • Faculty Association of California Community Colleges

Opponents

  • Some community college districts have raised concerns about liability, and whether the money needed to provide security would be better spent helping students find permanent housing

AB 1314: Cal Grant 2.0

By Asm. Jose Medina (D)

Stalled in Assembly

Senate

Governor

What it does

The biggest overhaul of the Cal Grant in 20 years would remake the state’s financial system to more closely resemble federal financial aid. Grants would be based on estimate of the total cost of attendance—including housing, transportation and books—minus what a student’s family can afford to contribute. The devil will be in the details, as the state’s financial aid commission would set the rules for this $2 billion makeover.

Like SB 291, this bill stalled this year but its author has pledged to bring it back next year.

Why it matters

You need a Ph.D. to understand the current web of Cal Grant categories, each with its own eligibility requirements. This bill would consolidate them into one grant for all students with financial need. Students have packed legislative hearings asking for help with housing and other non-tuition costs. After years of piecemeal reforms, the authors are going big.

Supporters

  • Only recently filed, so the usual interest groups are still developing positions. It’s pricey, so will need to compete with other legislative priorities and another major financial aid reform bill, SB 291.

Opponents

  • See support section.

AB 154: Income-Share Agreements

By Asm. Randy Voepel (R)

Died in Assembly Appropriations committee

Senate

Governor

What it does

Capitalize on a new trend in financial aid: allowing colleges to bet on their graduates’ success using what’s known as an income-share agreement. The college waives tuition; the student promises to pay the school a percentage of future earnings. Would require CSU and UC to each set up pilot income-sharing agreements at a single campus. It’s a Republican-sponsored bill that drew bipartisan support in the Assembly’s higher ed committee.

Why it matters

From Purdue University to coding bootcamps, colleges—mostly private ones—have already begun experimenting with income-share agreements. While experts debate whether they amount to indentured servitude, or just a creative way to pay for college, this bill would provide a test case at two of the country’s largest public university systems.

Supporters

  • 13th Avenue Funding, a Sacramento non-profit that manages income-share agreements

Opponents

  • Faculty associations at CSU and the California Community Colleges

SB 568: Housing Assistance

By Sen. Anthony Portantino (D)

Died in Assembly

Assembly

Governor

What it does

Establish a College-Focused Rapid Rehousing Program for homeless students at the state’s public colleges and universities. Students in the program—who would need to be enrolled at least half-time, and meet the federal definition of homelessness—could receive help with their housing search, application fees, moving costs, security deposits and utility bills, plus rental assistance for up to 24 months. Participating campuses would have to train homeless liaisons, prioritize foster and homeless students for financial aid, and allow them to file appeals if they lose aid due to housing problems that affect academic performance.

While this bill is not moving forward, it achieved some of its aims when lawmakers added about $50 million to next year’s state budget to combat student homelessness. Its author chose to do a “gut and amend,” allowing this bill to die, and reassigning the bill number to a completely different topic.

Why it matters

It’s not just community colleges who are struggling with homelessness: As the cost of living in California continues to rise, 5% of UC students and 11% of CSU students lack stable housing, recent surveys have found.

Supporters

  • Co-sponsors are the Cal State Student Association and John Burton Advocates for Youth
  • A range of advocacy groups and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Opponents

  • No vocal opposition

AB 2: Tuition-Free Community College

By Asm. Miguel Santiago (D)

Passed the Senate Education Committee

Senate

Governor

What it does

Provide two years of community college tuition-free to full-time students. An extension of the state’s existing California Promise, which waives fees for the first year to qualifying students—this would save them an additional $1,380 for the second year.

Why it matters

Part of a growing “free college” movement among states. Caveats: doesn’t cover the two-thirds of community college students who attend part-time, and college districts, which must meet certain conditions to get the scholarship money, can opt not to participate.

Supporters

  • A number of community college districts support the bill, along with the Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Supporters say it would send a clear message to low-income students that college is accessible to them

Opponents

  • The state’s Legislative Analyst has recommended against a proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom to spend $40 million expanding California Promise, arguing it’s too soon to say whether the free tuition program is working

AB 1340: Gainful Employment

By Asm. David Chiu (D)

In Senate Appropriations Committe

Senate

Governor

What it does

Originally would have forced career education programs to ensure graduates are earning enough to pay back their student loans. Would have barred programs from enrolling Californians if graduates’ average student loan payments exceeded 12% of their incomes.

This bill was amended to only require schools to report data on graduates’ debt and income.

Why it matters

In 2014, the Obama administration adopted a federal “gainful employment” rule to address poor outcomes at for-profit colleges and vocational schools, where research shows students are four times more likely to default on their loans than at public community colleges. This bill is modeled on that rule, which the Trump administration has declined to enforce.

Supporters

  • Consumer groups, veterans organizations and student advocates say the bill will protect California students from predatory marketing by substandard schools at a time when the U.S. Department of Education is unwilling to act

Opponents

  • The California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools, which represents many for-profit colleges, says the federal gainful employment rule was ineffective and that schools can’t be held responsible for factors beyond their control that might cause students to default

AB 376: Borrower’s Bill of Rights

By Asm. Mark Stone (D)

In Senate Appropriations Committe

Senate

Governor

What it does

Give student loan borrowers some of the same consumer protections available to people with mortgage or credit card debt. Loan servicers would be required to process payments on time, maintain accurate records, cap late fees and avoid misleading borrowers about their options. A new state borrower advocate would respond to complaints, and the state would monitor servicers’ performance.

Why it matters

Californians owe about one-tenth of the nation’s $1.5 trillion student loan tab. Some loan servicers have faced allegations that they provided faulty information to borrowers, driving up their payments—including Navient, which the state of California is currently suing.

Supporters

  • The former chief borrower advocate for the federal government, Seth Frotman, who says it would head off the kind of loan servicer abuses he and his team saw while responding to some 60,000 consumer complaints
  • Other consumer and advocacy groups, including Consumer Reports and NextGen California

Opponents

  • The Student Loan Servicing Alliance, which represents major loan servicers
  • In a lawsuit it filed last year against the District of Columbia, the group argued that only the federal government has authority to regulate student loans.

AB 505: Textbook Advances

By Asm. Jim Patterson (R)

Died in Assembly Appropriations Committee

Senate

Governor

What it does

Allows students who receive federal or state grants to buy textbooks on credit from campus bookstores, to be paid for later by their financial aid. Colleges and universities would have to participate or lose access to Cal Grant dollars.

Why it matters

Textbooks can be expensive. The College Board estimates they cost $1,240 a year, 12% of an average public college student's budget. Students are given money through Pell Grants or Cal Grants B and C to pay for textbooks, but aid is not deposited until weeks into instruction, while textbooks are needed the first week.

Supporters

  • California Association of College Stores

Opponents

  • California Community Colleges Financial Aid Administrators Association, which prefers requiring colleges to provide financial aid early in the term rather than establishing a book voucher program with monitoring expenses

SB 461: Summer Cal Grants

By Sen. Richard Roth (D)

Died in Assembly

Assembly

Governor

What it does

School wouldn’t be out for summer—or at least, financial aid wouldn’t. Like AB 1314, this would make changes to the state’s financial aid system, but on a smaller scale. Would allow students to receive Cal Grants to cover two summer sessions, which could cost up to tens of millions of dollars, according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

This bill’s author decided not to move forward after legislators passed a state budget setting aside $10 million to waive summer tuition at CSU and UC for some students.

Why it matters

The Public Policy Institute of California estimates California’s economy will face a deficit of more than one million college graduates by 2025 if current graduation rates persist. Supporters argue that letting low-income students use Cal Grants for summer study will help them graduate on time. Legislators who don’t want to pass more ambitious financial aid reform this year might see adding summer Cal Grants as a first step.

Supporters

  • Student associations for UC, SCU and California Community Colleges support this bill, as do UC and CSU administration and the California Student Aid Commission

Opponents

  • No vocal opposition

No bills fit this filter.