Senate Bill 291 seeks to aid students’ tuition pains

By Clarissa Corral

As the cost of pursuing a higher education in the college system becomes more and more expensive, students are put under tremendous strain in affording costs other than tuition like, housing, food and transportation.

Senator Connie M. Leyva has introduced Senate Bill 291. This piece of legislation would create a financial aid program for California community college students that would help to cover the total cost of attending as opposed to just tuition.

SB 291 would help to cover costs not covered by family contribution, employment, Pell Grant, Cal Grant or the California College Promise Grant.

“I think SB 291 is actually pretty good since it considers text books and living expenses and not just tuition,” Riverside City College student Victor Lopez said. “I receive financial aid, the BOG Waiver and the Pell Grant and the Cal Grant. I do know someone that actually considered dropping out due to the cost of community college expenses, my cousin actually, but decided to get two jobs to get by.”

The financial aid provided by the legislation would be available to more than one type of student, as it would extend itself to students who are pursuing a degree as well as those who are seeking a certificate or career educational program.

“The true cost of attending college is clearly more than just tuition,” Leyva said on her website. “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.”

Currently the majority of community colleges do not give financial aid with housing, transportation or food taken into account like CSUs and UCs do for students attending those schools, leaving many low-income students without adequate finances necessary to attend community college.

Even when a community college student does receive the maximum financial aid award, there are still a lot of costs and needs that will be left unmet.

Although there are other sources of financial aid available for students, such as the Pell Grant and Cal Grant, they too fall short in actually reaching the students who need the support the most.

In regards to financial aid dispersal, the Pell Grant program is the largest CCC aid program. The dollar amount of non-received Pell Grant program funds adds up to almost $130 million within the state of California in one semester alone.

“I think it’s a good idea and will help a lot of people who don’t get enough money from Fafsa,” RCCD student Brenda Galvan said. “I get Fafsa only and have struggled with money recently,- not with tuition but housing.”

The Cal Grant program has similar difficulties in reaching students in need, as only 5 percent of community college students receive it.

The SB 291 legislature will allocate money for the California community college Student Financial Aid Program so that in the 2019-20 fiscal year there will be $250,000,000 reserved for students and go up increasingly until the 2024–25 fiscal year where it will from that point on be extended to $1,500,000,000.

As a whole, Leyva’s SB 291 will address the inequity of financial aid and otherwise increase secondary educational opportunity for success for California community college students.