California community colleges serve more than 2.1 million students at 115 campuses across the state. While tuition has remained low at our community colleges, it is still difficult for most lower-income students to achieve their educational goals due to our state’s higher cost of living and the lack of adequate financial aid to cover non-tuition expenses such as textbooks, transportation, basic housing and food. Most community college students work multiple jobs to try and make ends meet. While our state has led the nation in innovative programs like the California College Promise Grant, which waives tuition for roughly 50 percent of our students, other financial aid options fall short of covering non-tuition costs that make up the majority of student expenses. Even with tuition waived, financial challenges remain the greatest obstacle to college completion.
Surprisingly, because of the disparity in financial aid options, the total cost of attending a California community college is often higher than UC or CSU. Expanding financial aid to community college students will provide the help they need to succeed in college and create a more balanced system of aid across California’s three public higher education segments.
Recognizing the importance of addressing this disparity, Senator Connie Leyva and co-authors have introduced SB 291. This bill, if enacted, will become a key component of a comprehensive California College Promise. By awarding financial aid based on the total cost of attendance, including non-tuition expenses like textbooks, housing, food and transportation, this bill will provide meaningful financial support to students with the greatest need.
Real changes in the amount of financial aid community college students can receive must not wait. It’s critical that we expand financial aid opportunities so students can complete their education in a timely manner, live more secure lives, earn higher wages and, in turn, boost the state’s economy and tax revenues.
What Students Are Saying
I support this bill because tuition is not the entire cost of college and often times students cannot continue college due to other financial struggles, such as how to pay for a place to live, food to eat, and supplies they need that are not being covered by regular financial aid. This is a huge step in the right direction!
-Alexis Zaragoza, Student, Modesto Junior College; Student Representative, California Community Colleges Board of Governors
I’m excited about SB 291 because it finally offers CCC students the same support a four-year university student receives. This would bring equity to the financial aid system by ensuring we have money for textbooks, transportation to classes, or food to eat while studying and pursuing our degree.
-Kellie Williams, Student, Los Angeles City College; Student Trustee, California Community Colleges Trustees Board
SB 291 is a stepping stone for community college students because it gives them even more opportunities to succeed. Far too often community college students are left out of the conversation of equity, especially when it comes to financial aid. With the cost of living rising in California and the need for a college degree becoming more of a requirement for financial stability, it is imperative that we give every student the financial comfort to achieve their goals.
-Alexander Walker-Griffin, Student Body President, Contra Costa College; Student Representative, California Community Colleges Board of Governors
For too long California community colleges have been overlooked in terms of financial aid, especially state-based aid. SB 291 will change that by giving low-income students a real chance at educational achievement, providing proper financial assistance that takes into account the total cost of attendance.
-Iiyshaa Youngblood, Former Student, Moreno Valley College (CSU San Bernardino); President, Student Senate for California Community Colleges
SB 291 will offer necessary aid to our system's most vulnerable students. Taking into account a student's total cost of attendance when allocating aid is essential to preventing students from choosing between this week's meals or their textbooks. I've personally had to work upwards of 30 hours per week in addition to taking a full course load just to be able to stay in school. The students of California's community colleges have been waiting for this opportunity for upward mobility through education, please help us to be able to complete our educational journeys through the adoption of this legislation.
-Valerie Johnson, Student, Crafton Hills College; President, Crafton Hills College Student Senate
To see what other students are saying, click here
What Leaders Are Saying
The true cost of attending college is clearly more than just tuition. It is critically important that our community colleges remain an affordable option for all students. When non-tuition costs like housing, food, and textbooks are considered, community college is often more expensive for our lowest-income students to attend than other state universities. SB 291 addresses this issue by creating a financial aid program that helps to cover a community college student’s whole cost of attendance.
-Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino)
Author, SB 291
In most regions of California, the true cost of attending community college for low-income students is higher than for students at a nearby California State University or University of California campus. Very few community college students qualify for financial aid to cover living expenses, transportation or textbooks. Sen. Leyva’s bill seeks to address these inequities by creating the California Community College Student Financial Aid Program.
-Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor, California Community Colleges
We applaud the California Community Colleges and Senator Leyva for seeking to expand financial aid to support the full, true cost of attending community college, which can make a significant impact on the lives of young people experiencing homelessness. Our young people experiencing homelessness need education and employment to successfully exit to self-sufficiency and independence.
-Jevon Wilkes, Executive Director of the California Coalition for Youth
SB 291 comes just in time to help students who are challenged by the increasing cost of living while attending a community college. Paying for college is more than paying for tuition, and with the cost of textbooks and housing, sometimes the financial burden is just too much to overcome for many in our low-income communities. SB 291 has my full support and I look forward to seeing the rewards it will bring to thousands of people across the state.
-Gregg Irish, Executive Director, Los Angeles Workforce Development Board; Co-Chair, California Community Colleges Black and African-American Advisory Panel
We commend our state leaders for their boldness to make real change. This bill is critical to eliminating the financial barriers our students face as they work to achieve their education and career goals. We are confident that a reform bill that addresses the total cost of attending college will allow for more students to focus on their educational success. Most aid programs have barriers built within them making them hard to access. This proposal has the potential to touch many people and change many lives. Thank you for your bravery and for putting education first!
-Tammera Shinar, President, California Community Colleges Student Financial Aid Administrators Association
To see what other leaders are saying, click here
About the Bill:
SB 291 is co-sponsored by the California Community Colleges and Community College League of California
- Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino)
- Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica)
- Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Gardena)
- Senator Steven Bradford (D-Santa Barbara)
- Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-San Francisco)
- Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)
- Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco)
- Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino)
- Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland)
Read the full text of the bill here.
Read more about expanding access to financial aid:
- New Legislation Calls for Expanded Financial Aid Opportunities for Students in the California Community Colleges System
- Senator Leyva: Community College Students Need Financial Aid to Cover True Cost of Attendance
- Senate Bill 291 (Leyva) Would Put Financial Aid Directly Into Student Hands, Supporting Affordability, Success and Equity
- Half of California’s Community College Students Experience Hunger, Housing Insecurity | KQED News
- Community colleges can cost more than universities, leaving neediest students homeless | Los Angeles Times
- California's community colleges back new effort to cover college costs, including living expenses | EdSource
- Not-so-free college: The limits of California’s Promise program | CALmatters
- Bills would provide more financial aid to California college students | San Francisco Chronicle