Following a successful defeat of the September recall election, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a landslide of progressive bills into law, some of which will mean changes for public universities.
Only a day ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline to act on the 836 total proposals from state lawmakers, Newsom passed 92% of the proposed legislation, as reported by CalMatters. Here’s how these new laws could affect college students.
Affordability and Financial Aid
Assembly Bill 469 will require all students to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or a California Dream Act application by September 2022.
According to The Education Trust, this bill will “boost college-going for low-income students and students of color by building a college-going culture.”
“I’m hoping that requiring the FAFSA will only make students who might be going through the application process alone more aware of the aid that is available to them and increase opportunities for those who need it most,” liberal studies senior Julia Pennington said.
Assembly Bill 1377 will require all California public universities to perform a needs-based assessment of student housing starting in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Universities will then need to create a housing plan, with an emphasis on affordable housing, that addresses how they will meet projected student needs.
Assembly Bill 396 targets a proposed expansion of CalFresh food benefits provided through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. CalFresh is a state welfare program that aims to provide low-income households with nutritious food.
Under current federal law, college students who are enrolled more than part-time are not eligible for these benefits unless they meet certain exemptions. One of these exemptions requires students to participate in employment training for low-income households.
This new law aims to clarify the eligibility requirements for this exemption and requires these employment opportunities to be made available at all California public universities.
Community College Transfer System
Assembly Bill 928 will establish a standard sequence of lower-division general education requirements for students intending to transfer from community colleges to four-year public universities. It also requires the California Community Colleges to place students who declare a transfer goal pathway for their intended major.
Additionally, Assembly Bill 1111 will require all 116 California Community College campuses to adopt a common course numbering system that will ensure an easier application for transfer credit at both CSU and UC schools.
“I think that by making the community college system more compatible with four-year universities and easier to navigate, we’re working on reducing some of the stigma that can come from choosing a two-year over university,” Pennington said.
Cal Grant Reform Vetoed
While many of the education bills Newsom passed into law are considered progressive, he also vetoed the largest proposed expansion of the state’s financial aid system in decades.
The Cal Grant Reform, also known as Assembly Bill 1456, would have simplified the Cal Grant system. The financial aid system has been criticized in recent years for being overly complicated and not investing enough in students choosing to pursue two-year colleges. The bill was projected to make an additional 160,000 students eligible for aid.
Newsom’s move to veto the bill came only days after his approval of other assembly bills that target affordable housing and expanding financial aid eligibility.
“These new laws definitely address a lot of the inequality issues we’re seeing at the university level,” Pennington said. “I’m just curious to see how effectively they will be implemented and if we as students will be able to see any change.”