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The California Comeback Plan for Higher Education Becomes Law

August 2, 2021 | Ava Marinelli

Last week, Governor Newsom signed AB 132, the Higher Education budget bill dubbed the California Comeback Plan. This bill comes at a critical time for California’s young people, with fewer students are applying for financial aid and COVID-19 disrupting their plans for higher education. We also know that Linked Learning students leave high school ready to take on postsecondary pursuits, but often face barriers when they arrive in higher education. Through these investments in higher education, we hope California’s young people will have greater and more equitable access to the array of postsecondary opportunities our state has to offer.

To make college more affordable and accessible specifically for California students the deal increases the number of slots for in-state students at both the California State University (CS) and University of California (UC) systems. The bill also expands dual enrollment pathways for students who begin in a community college program and transfer to a CSU or UC campus. With many Linked Learning alumni attending in-state institutions, we hope this provision will allow a greater number of young people to continue to learn in their community and invest their knowledge and skills in the local economy. The plan also creates the California Kids Investment and Development Savings Program or CalKIDS that will provide $500 to seed a college savings account for public school students from low-income families, English language learners and foster youth.

The changes to the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) program will allow students, beginning in 2022-23, to use the grants to cover the gap between the student’s total cost of attendance and other sources of aid including support from the student and family. The final deal also provides funding to continue to support Guided Pathways, lower the costs of student housing and requires school districts to confirm that high school seniors complete the FAFSA or California Dream Act paperwork for financial aid.

The bill also makes targeted investments in equity-focused programs and student supports to help bridge the equity gaps and includes $115 million for Zero-Textbook-Cost Degree grant programs and open educational resources at the California Community College system to lower textbook costs.

These reforms are accompanied by an increased level of funding totaling $47.1 billion for student financial aid and for the CSU, UC, and CCC systems—the highest amount of funding the segments have ever received from the state. “With massive increases in funding for our world-class colleges and universities, expanded college savings accounts, increased student financial aid and opportunities to gain work experience while learning, we are helping students reach their full potential and driving upward mobility across California,” said Governor Newsom in a press release from his office.