College & Careers

Reforming higher education in California: a bill tracker

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EdSource is tracking 21 higher education bills that were introduced this year in the Legislature. The bills would address a range of issues, including financial aid, student debt, homelessness and access to college for undocumented students, among others. Use this tracker, which will be updated, to stay informed on each of those pieces of legislation. Bills that have stalled are shaded gray.

 

Financial aid

Community college financial aid reform (SB 291)

Bill author(s): Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino

What it would do: SB 291 would create the California Community College Student Financial Aid Program, providing aid to community college students to cover the total cost of attending college, including living costs, books and transportation. Students would be eligible as long as they are California residents, attend a California community college, make satisfactory academic progress and don’t already receive aid covering the cost of two years of attendance.

Why it’s important: While tuition is lower at community colleges in California, it can often be difficult for community college students in the state to afford non-tuition costs, such as housing and food. 

Bill status: Passed the Senate and stalled in the Assembly before becoming a two-year bill. Legislators expect to integrate the contents of the bill with the contents of AB 1314 as they continue their work on financial reform this fall.

Cal Grant reform

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside

What it would do: AB 1314 would consolidate the Cal Grant A, B and C programs into one program and eliminate barriers for eligibility to receive Cal Grants, including age, years out of high school and grade point average requirements. Similar to SB 291, the reformed Cal Grant program would cover non-tuition costs for students in addition to tuition.

Why it’s important: Students at California community colleges often face a range of non-tuition costs, namely housing and food, that make it difficult to afford attendance.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and stalled in the Senate before becoming a two-year bill. Legislators expect to integrate the contents of the bill with the contents of SB 291 as they continue their work on financial reform this fall.

Cal Grants for incarcerated students

Bill author(s): Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena

What it would do: SB 575 would eliminate rules that prevent students who are incarcerated from receiving Cal Grants.

Why it’s important: A significant barrier to higher education for students who are incarcerated is that they are unable to access financial aid. SB 575 would change that.

Bill status: Passed the Senate and held in suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, meaning lawmakers have until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee. If they fail to do that, the legislation will become a two-year bill.

Cal Grants for students attending private universities (AB 1307)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park

What it would do: AB 1307 would create a funding formula to determine the amount of Cal Grant awards available for students attending independent, nonprofit universities in California. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, the maximum award amount for those students would increase from the current maximum of $9,084.

Why it’s important: The maximum Cal Grant award amount of $9,084 has stayed stagnant over the last 19 years for students attending private, nonprofit universities in California. This bill would increase the award amount to better reflect the increased cost of attending those schools.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and currently in the Senate.

California College Promise expansion (AB 2)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles

What it would do: AB 2 would expand the California Community College Promise Program, which waives enrollment fees for first-year students at participating community colleges. The bill would extend the program to also waive fees for the second year of college. It would also eliminate the provision that only first-time students are eligible for the program.

Why it’s important: This bill would make two free years of community college a reality for all students by eliminating the first-year requirement and extending the program to cover two years of tuition. 

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and currently in the Senate. Meanwhile, the 2019-20 budget provided $42.6 million in ongoing funds to support a second year of free tuition — though that will only apply to full-time, first-time students.

Student debt

Loan forgiveness program (AB 140)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside

What it would do: AB 140 would establish the California Kickstart My Future Loan Forgiveness Program, which would cover student loan payments for two years after graduation, if the student earns less than $50,000 a year, obtained an undergraduate degree from a California college or university and works in California. 

Why it’s important: Although students in California have less student debt than students in most other states, graduates of California’s four-year universities still take on significant debt. In 2017, the average graduate had a student loan debt of $22,785, according to the Institute of College Access and Success.

Bill status: Held in suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, meaning that lawmakers have until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee before it becomes a two-year bill.

Pilot income share agreement (AB 154)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Randy Voepel, R-Santee

What it would do: AB 154 would establish a pilot income share agreement program at one campus each in the 10-campus University of California and 23-campus California State University systems. Under the program, students would be able to pledge a portion of future incomes in exchange for reduced tuition. Starting six months after graduating, students in the program would give a percentage of their income to their university for 10 years.

Why it’s important: This bill is expected to help reduce student debt. 

 

Bill status: Held in suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, meaning that lawmakers have until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee. If they fail to do that, the legislation will become a two-year bill.

Homelessness, hunger

Parking for homeless students (AB 302)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto

What it would do: AB 302 would require community colleges with parking on campus to allow overnight access to those parking lots to any homeless student enrolled at the school. Students would be able to park in the lots and sleep in their vehicles overnight.

Why it’s important: Surveys of students indicate that many California community college students are in need of places to stay overnight. However, the vast majority of the system’s campuses do not have dormitories, meaning students are not guaranteed a place to sleep. 

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and currently in the Senate.

Housing and hunger hardship fund (SB 278)

Bill author(s): Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton

What it would do: SB 728 would establish the Student Housing and Food Hardship Fund, which would set aside emergency financial assistance for housing and food costs. Students experiencing housing or food insecurity would be eligible to apply for funds.

Why it’s important: Many students across California experience either food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness, trends this bill would address. Food insecurity occurs when a student doesn’t have easy access to safe and nutritious food. The definition of housing insecurity is often broad and can include students who have slept on a couch within the past year and students who need to move frequently or are unable to pay rent.

Bill status: Held in Assembly Appropriations Committee because there was no motion to move the bill out of committee. The 2019-20 budget set aside a total of $52.9 million to help students at California’s 33 public university campuses and 115 community colleges who experience homelessness, housing insecurity or hunger.

Foster youth

Foster Youth Meal Plan Program (AB 1229)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland

What it would do: AB 1229 would create the Transition Age Foster Youth Meal Plan Program. That would give foster youth working toward a higher education degree an award that would cover the cost of 10 meals per week and campus fees.

Why it’s important: Food insecurity affects many college students, especially foster youth, according to a Wisconsin Hope Lab survey of college students.

 

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and currently in the Senate.

Chafee grant eligibility (SB 150)

Bill author(s): Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose

What it would do: SB 150 would relax eligibility requirements for Chafee grants, which are the only source of financial aid dedicated to foster youth. The bill would allow recipients to remain eligible for the aid even if they do not show satisfactory academic progress for two straight years.

Why it’s important: Foster youth often face hardships while in college and are less likely to complete their degrees than other students. SB 150 could make it easier for foster youth who are struggling in school to keep working toward their degree.

 

Bill status: Passed the Senate and held in suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, giving lawmakers until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee. The legislation will become a two-year bill if it doesn’t move out of committee by that point.

Undocumented students and immigrants

Apprenticeship and internship programs (AB 595)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside

What it would do: AB 595 would allow a student enrolled in a California community college to use an individual tax identification number in lieu of a social security number for any background checks required to enroll in college apprenticeship or internship programs.

Why it’s important: California community colleges offer a range of programs that require students to participate in an internship or apprenticeship program but students now need a social security number to enroll which prevents undocumented students from participating. 

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and currently in the Senate.

Dreamer Resource Liaisons (AB 1645)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park

What it would do: AB 1645 would require the 114 campuses of California Community Colleges and the 23 campuses in the California State University system to establish Dreamer Resource Liaisons and Dream Resource Centers to help undocumented students. The bill would also request that the 10 campuses of the University of California system do the same on each campus. 

Why it’s important: There are more undocumented students in California than any other state, and an estimated 72,000 are enrolled in public colleges and universities in the state. This bill would provide those students with more resources.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and held in suspense by Senate Appropriations Committee, meaning lawmakers have until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee. If they fail to do that, the legislation will become a two-year bill.

Financial aid for asylum seekers (SB 296)

Bill author(s): Senator Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica

What it would do: SB 296 would expand the Cal Grant program to students who recently came to California seeking asylum. They would be eligible for Cal Grant awards to the same extent as other eligible students. The bill would require that students have a valid employment authorization document and a social security number to be eligible for the award.

Why it’s important: Undocumented students are currently eligible for state aid if they have attended a California high school or community college for three or more years. This bill would allow recently arrived migrant students to receive Cal Grants.

Bill status: Passed the Senate and held in suspense by Assembly Appropriations Committee, meaning lawmakers have until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee before it becomes a two-year bill.

For-profit colleges

Employment outcome reporting (AB 1340)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco

What it would do: AB 1340 would require that institutions regulated by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education many of which are for-profit schools offering career training programs to report employment outcomes for graduates.

Why it’s important: This bill would ensure that prospective students have access to information about the quality of for-profit schools and their career training programs so they can make informed school choices.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and currently in the Senate.

Formerly for-profit colleges labeled as nonprofits (AB 1341)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto

What it would do: AB 1341 would mandate the Bureau for Private For-Profit Postsecondary Education to oversee non-profit colleges if those colleges had operated as a for-profit college at any time since January, 1, 2010.

Why it’s important: Some for-profit colleges, such as Ashford University in San Diego, have recently shifted to nonprofit status, raising concerns that those schools could mislead students about their pasts and links to for-profit entities and avoid oversight. In Ashford University’s case, the university is still a holding of Zovio, a for-profit education service formerly called Bridgepoint Education.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly, pending in the Senate

Sales of nonprofit schools to for-profit companies (AB 1342)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Campbell

What it would do: AB 1342 would require that the state Attorney General approve sales of nonprofit colleges and universities to for-profit companies.

Why it’s important: According to Low’s office, when a for-profit company attempts to purchase a nonprofit college, there are currently “very few protections in place to prevent the sale from reducing a community’s access to quality higher education.” This bill would add more state oversight to that process.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly and held in suspense by Senate Appropriations Committee, giving lawmakers until Aug. 30 to move the bill out of committee before it becomes a two-year bill.

Economic loss from closed institutions (AB 1346)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside

What it would do: AB 1346 would expand the definition of economic loss under the state’s Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF) which allows students to recoup costs following the closure of an institution or program regulated by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. Currently, economic loss is defined only as costs paid directly to the institution, such as tuition and books. This bill would allow students to recoup losses from expenses beyond tuition, such as housing and transportation.

Why it’s important: By limiting economic loss to tuition and other charges paid directly to the institutions, current law keeps students from recovering the full cost of attending schools that get discontinued. 

Bill status: Passed the Assembly, pending in the Senate.

Other

Preferential treatment in admissions (AB 697)

Bill author(s): Assemblymembers Phil Ting, D-San Francisco and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento

What it would do: AB 697 would require that, beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, any college or university that gives preferential admissions treatment to applicants related to donors or alumni to report information about those admissions to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) each year. If an institution fails to report that data, the students at the school would not be able to receive Cal Grant awards. An original version of the bill would have stripped Cal Grants financial aid from all students at an institution that gave preferential treatment in admissions to children of donors or alumni.

Why it’s important: The legislation was proposed in response to the national college admissions scandal. Prosecutors have accused dozens of parents of paying millions in bribes to secure the admission of their children into universities across the United States including California.

Bill status: Passed the Assembly, pending in the Senate.

Mental health program (AB 1689)

Bill author(s): Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento

What it would do: AB 1689 would establish the College Mental Health Services Program. The bill would allocate $40 million annually from Prop 63 to implement program. Of that $40 million, $10 million each would go to the 10-campus University of California and 23-campus California State University systems and $20 million to the 115-college California Community Colleges system. Grants of up to $500,000 would then be administered to individual campuses to provide mental health services.

Why it’s important: Colleges and universities have said more money is needed to address students seeking help for mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Last year, about 13 percent of University of California students and 16 percent of California State University students received counseling or treatment, new record highs.

Bill status: Held by the Assembly Appropriations Committee since there was no motion to move the bill out of committee. The 2019-20 budget also allocated a one-time increase of $7 million in Proposition 63 funds to create a grant program for community colleges to create or improve access to mental health services. Proposition 63, approved by voters in 2004, provides money to counties to expand services and programs for mentally ill individuals via a tax on personal incomes greater than $1 million.

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  1. Tracy 1 week ago1 week ago

    We should have more people who will help with mentally ill students. Some days, we feel so drained to even get out of our bed and go to school. 🙁 I hope congress understands this. As a mentally ill person, it is hard to get a job. So, with that being said, it’s hard to pay our bills, like rent.

  2. ann 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    So easy to spend other people’s money….