Equity Alert: Investing Equitably in California College Affordability

Cover image of Equity Alert: Investing Equitably in California College Affordability.
Cal Grants are the most critical state financial aid investments to promote college access and affordability for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and students from low-income backgrounds throughout California. The Cal Grant program provides students, including those with the fewest resources, with financial aid to pursue higher education. As a commitment to further strengthen the Cal Grant program and better serve more low-income Californians, California state lawmakers and the governor enacted the Cal Grant Reform Act in the 2022 Budget Act, which is to be implemented in 2024 contingent upon the state fully funding the reform. But underserved Californians cannot wait; they need support now to accomplish their higher education goals. California policymakers have a critical opportunity this year to reinforce the state’s commitment to achieving educational equity for BIPOC students and students with the greatest need by investing in Cal Grant Reform starting in the 2023-24 state budget. This equity alert, from The Education Trust–West and The Institute for College Success & Access (TICAS), provides an overview of why Cal Grant Reform is needed; describes the limitations of the Middle Class Scholarship program in serving low-income, Black, Latinx, and Native American students and community college students in California; and provides recommendations that state policymakers can act on this year to advance equity-centered financial aid reforms.


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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.