Brown’s efforts to restrict community college financial aid rejected

State Senate and Assembly committees have rejected several controversial elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s recommendations on financial aid and financing of the state’s community colleges.
The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance on Wednesday voted down one proposal that would have required all community college students seeking a Board of Governor’s fee waiver to first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, and another plan that would have required students with more than 90 credits to pay the full cost of community college courses.
On Thursday, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee concurred on two of those actions, holding open a vote on the FAFSA requirement.
Nearly 1 million community college students receive a fee waiver at a cost of about $783 million this academic year and, according to the statewide chancellor’s office, about 80 percent of those students fill out a FAFSA.  According the Senate subcommittee agenda, the chancellor’s office estimates that at least 10 percent of students who currently qualify for a fee waiver would lose their aid under the governor’s plan because their parents won’t provide the information on their income needed for the FAFSA or because they earn too much. Civil rights organizations are also concerned that undocumented students will lose aid because they’re not able to fill out a FAFSA.
Senate subcommittee staff had recommended against the governor’s FAFSA recommendation in part because Assembly Bill 606, by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, would establish a voluntary pilot program to encourage more students to fill out the federal financial aid form. The bill is currently in committee.
Both subcommittees also rejected, along party line votes, the governor’s budget trailer bill that would require students with more than 90 units to pay the full, unsubsidized cost of community college courses.  That would increase the bill for about 117,000 students who currently exceed the cap from $46 per credit to between $127 and $190 per credit based on a quarter or semester calendar.
The community college Student Success Task Force also recommended the cap in its final report. “We’ve always said that we thought that our recently adopted system-wide enrollment priority policy is aimed at achieving the same outcome as the 90 unit cap. We think that policy should have a chance to prove itself,” said Paul Feist, vice chancellor for communications in the community colleges Chancellor’s Office.
A third component of the governor’s trailer bill that was also rejected would have changed the date when the state calculates how much it owes community colleges for the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in the system, known as apportionment. Currently, it’s based on enrollment toward the beginning of the term, usually the third of fourth week of each semester. The governor wanted the student count to take place at the end of the term, with any enrollment funds that districts lose as a result going into community college categorical programs to be used for student support services.
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