California’s state colleges and universities open the door to new opportunities and social mobility for students from lower income communities and students of color. At the Education Trust–West, we believe there can be no pandemic recovery without education equity. Now more than ever, it is critical that we provide equitable access to postsecondary education. It is vital to sustaining our democracy, building our future workforce, and moving all of us closer to racial justice.
That is why we are going ALL IN in support of Governor Newsom’s budget proposal, which would ensure all high school seniors complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or a California Dream Act Application (CADAA).
$550 million in federal and state aid is left on the table each year in California.
Approximately $550 million in federal and state aid goes unused because California students are either unaware of the aid, don’t know how to apply or if they qualify, or fear sharing personal information because of their immigration status (Hidden Figures report).
These funds are critical to enabling more students from lower income communities, who make up about 61% of California’s population, access to higher education or occupational certificates.
How is California Doing on Financial Aid Application Completion?
One of the largest barriers to attaining a degree is college affordability–but it doesn’t have to be. California educates approximately 1 out of every 10 K-12 students in the nation. Alarmingly, thousands of eligible students from lower income communities and students of color attend high schools with some of the lowest financial aid application rates in the state.
The ongoing pandemic, school closures, and shift to online learning have changed or canceled more than 80% of California college students’ plans. In 2020, only 54% of California’s graduating senior class completed the FAFSA or CA Dream Act application. Fewer high school students are filling out the FAFSA as compared to last year, and high schools that serve a majority of Black and Latinx students have even lower FAFSA completion rates. The Governor’s Budget highlights that FAFSA and CADAA completion rates have declined by about 10 percent and 45 percent, respectively, for first-time freshman.
Momentum is growing across the state and nation
Despite the ongoing challenges to expanding financial aid access, California leaders have shown their commitment to increasing FAFSA and CADAA completion rates. We are excited to see some progress toward our goal to ensure every student has an opportunity to complete a financial aid application:
California State Budget
In January 2021, Governor Newsom put forth a proposal that aims to ensure all high school seniors complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA), if passed. For more details, check out the Trailer Bill Language here.
In February, nearly 50 organizations signed on to our coalition letter to the Budget Subcommittees on Education urging a support recommendation for the Governor’s FAFSA/CADAA proposal.
FAFSA Simplification Act
The FAFSA Simplification Act, included within the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, brought about numerous affordability wins for low-income students. They include: changing the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to Student Aid Index, an increase of $150 to maximum Pell Grant, and providing Pell–eligible students with broadband internet access at a subsidized cost.
The time to go ALL IN is now! Join the All In For Financial Aid Campaign!
No students should be denied the opportunity to go to college just because they did not know about their financial aid options. It is time for California legislators to pass and allocate funding towards a statewide solution to increase FAFSA and CADAA completion in our state.
Join the All in For Financial Aid Campaign to ensure that the California 2021-22 budget allows for all high school seniors to complete a FAFSA or California Dream Act Application beginning in the 2021-22 academic year.