New Statewide Policy for Community College Financial Aid

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 19 into law on Oct. 13 to alleviate community college students’ financial burdens. AB 19, known more commonly as the California College Promise, is an amendment to the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver.

Prior to AB 19, the BOG Fee Waiver eliminated the $46 per unit tuition fee for first-year, low-income community college students with the condition that they submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act application. Over the past 30 years, the BOG Fee Waiver provided tuition-free community college education to over 5.1 million Californians and currently grants 1.1 million students financial assistance.

AB 19 expands on the BOG Fee Waiver by covering the first year of tuition for all students, regardless of income. Previously, the BOG Fee Waiver limited its coverage based on financial need. Changes also include the incorporation of a “first-dollar” plan to community colleges statewide, whereas before, this model was dependent on individual colleges. In the first-dollar plan, the state covers tuition first and students may use any federal aid to cover other expenses such as rent, groceries or books.

Unlike the first-dollar plan, the “last-dollar” plan — used by Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee — uses state aid to pay tuition not covered by a student’s federal aid. The first-dollar plan leaves room for cost of living because AB 19 allows students to use their federal funding for non-tuition related expenses.

The bill will cost the state more than $30 million in waived tuition fees and will save eligible students $1,100 to $1,400 per year.

“We look forward to working with the governor and legislature on providing funding to support the California College Promise and additional financial aid to offset the non-tuition costs that create barriers to college attendance for students with financial need,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley in a statement released by the Chancellor’s Office on Oct. 13.