Assembly Passes Bill to Provide Emergency Aid to California Community College Students

Monday, May 8, 2017

AB 1468 will help community college students complete their course of study despite unexpected financial emergencies

Sacramento, CA – The California State Assembly today passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1468, a bill by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) that will help California community college students pursue their educational goals despite unexpected financial emergencies by enabling community colleges to provide small emergency grants.

“Community college students should not lose the chance to pursue an education because of a sudden financial emergency,” said Assemblymember. Chiu. “Emergency aid can help students stay enrolled and finish their degrees.”

With the soaring cost of college education, students are continually strapped for cash and often lack the resources to cover basic needs such as housing, food, and transportation. Studies show that many students on the financial edge can have their entire community college career derailed by just one financial emergency.

"Due to the lack of financial aid allotted to community college students, many fall through the cracks of higher education​," said Gerson Liahut, Vice President of Legislative Affairs of the bill's sponsor, the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.​ "​A simple emergency can either extend a student's stay in the system, which prolongs their goals, or entirely wipes them out of the system. We believe that AB 1468 will efficiently tackle these time-sensitive emergencies, which will ensure that all of our students, regardless of socioeconomic status, can realize their educational endeavors​."

“As the nation’s largest educational support provider, we strongly believe that AB 1468 authored by Assemblyman Chiu will offer California community colleges an effective tool to help students continue their education when faced with an unexpected financial crisis," said Bob Ballard, President and CEO of Scholarship America.

“By allowing community colleges to use a limited portion of their funding to provide small emergency grants, more students will reach the graduation finish line, enter the workforce and help keep our state economically competitive,” said David Rattray, Executive Vice President of the Center for Education Excellence & Talent Development at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

A 2017 study of over 33,000 community college students found that two thirds of students are food insecure, half are housing insecure, and 13 percent are homeless. The study also found that 32 percent of the students experiencing insecurity were both working and receiving financial aid, but were still unable to meet financial challenges. These students are much more likely to drop out of college than those who do not experience insecurity.

In February 2017, the Center for Community College Student Engagement released data from a survey of nearly 100,000 community college students. One in five California community college students reported being unable to afford one more dollar in unexpected costs, and an astonishing 47 percent said that lack of finances could cause them to withdraw.

Other reports identified that the number one reason students leave school is the need to work and attend school at the same time. Not surprisingly, a large majority of these students who drop out intend to re-enroll, but only 38 percent successfully return. In other words, a financial emergency can completely derail students in their quest for a degree because our existing system isn’t able to support them in time to keep them on track.

AB 1468 uses a successful financial aid model adopted elsewhere across the nation. Other states’ colleges and universities use emergency aid as an effective tool to improve student retention and degree completion. A recent review of one emergency aid program concluded that 90 percent of students who receive emergency aid finished their term and 88 percent enrolled the next semester. In contrast a mere 31 percent of California community college students finished their coursework on time.

Three California community colleges, Pasadena City College, Grossmont Community College, and Cuyamaca Community College, have implemented privately funded emergency aid programs since 2010. This bill would authorize the use of state funds for this purpose.

AB 1468 now heads to the Senate.

For more information, contact:
Judson True, judson.true@asm.ca.go
(916) 319.2017

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Assemblymember David Chiu (D – San Francisco) is the Chair of the Housing & Community Development Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the 17th Assembly District, which encompasses eastern San Francisco.