California Lawmakers Seek Solutions to Make Higher Education Affordable

California needs one million more workers who have a bachelor’s degree by 2030 to keep up with workforce demands in the state. College graduates earn higher salaries and generally do not need public assistance, which means more tax revenue for the state. The problem is that people who want to go to college are finding it hard to afford the cost of tuition, plus it’s difficult for them to pay for living expenses in a state with a high cost of living. A poll taken in 2016 showed close to 60% of Californians view the affordability of attending college as a big problem.

State lawmakers are listening to the concerns of Californians, and they have plans on finding a solution to this problem. Low-income and disadvantaged students have access to federal grants, state grants, and scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition and fees. Over half of all students who attend a California State University, a University of California, or a community college take advantage of this financial assistance. Middle-class students can take advantage of the Middle-Class Scholarship program, but high-income students have limited access to financial assistance.

The problem is that these financial aid programs do not provide assistance to cover daily living expenses. Qualifying low-income students have access to a taxpayer-funded stipend to cover living expenses, but it only pays $1,700 per year. Students often need to take on two or three jobs just to make ends meet, which has a negative impact on their studies. Housing and food insecurity is a rising issue among college students, and higher education affordability advocates want the California legislature to solve this problem.

Lawmakers are looking to solve this issue in a couple of ways. One proposal is to have a one percent tax increase on millionaires, and the revenues from this will be used to make all public colleges tuition-free. Another proposal is to eliminate the need for students to take out loans for living expenses if they come from a family who has an annual income of no more than $150,000. Neither of these proposals has passed, but lawmakers have passed a bill this year that included $50 million in funding to help college students pay for living expenses. Higher education affordability advocates are happy that this issue is starting to be addressed.


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