Like most college students, Bianca Rojas has a lot to balance — classes, papers, exams, research. Unlike most of her peers, though, the 25-year-old Cal State Long Beach sociology major also has two extracurricular obligations: Jasper and Adeline, her toddlers.
Each semester, she said, she carefully budgets her financial aid, calculating the credits she can afford, given the needs of her family. It’s stressful: Last semester, she and her partner, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, had to take turns skipping classes, if necessary, to tend the children.
“I had to seek counseling because I was just overwhelmed,” Rojas said. “It was a really difficult time because it was just not enough resources available. You find out too late, like, ‘Oh there's not going to be childcare for you at this time.’ It's like then what do you do? Not go to school?”
Students such as Rojas were who Gov. Gavin Newsom had in mind this year when he injected millions of dollars into the state higher education budget to increase financial aid for young parents attending the University of California, California State University and the California Community Colleges.
More than 300,000 California students are supported by the state’s main financial aid program, known as Cal Grant; last year, about 32,000 of them were also parents. Newsom’s budget, among other things, increased awards to up $6,000 for UC, Cal State and community college students with children, promising “real relief to our parents who are getting an education at the same time.”Read More
The price of college has become a hot-button issue at both the state and national level, but data has been scarce about how much, beyond tuition, California students actually spend on the housing, food, textbooks and other non-tuition items that they also need to earn a degree.
On Thursday, a state survey offered some answers: about $2,000 per month — and many say it’s a struggle. Nearly two-thirds of students polled by the California Student Aid Commission said the greatest obstacle to their success was either the cost of college or the need to balance work with studying.
The state survey on college costs, scrapped during the recession, was revived last year after a decade in which the commission relied on outdated figures to create the sample student budgets that many colleges use to calculate their cost of attendance.
More than 150,000 students at the University of California, California State University, private colleges and community colleges received the surveys, created with the independent research firm Mathematica and funded by the College Futures Foundation. About 15,000 responded. More than 30% said they did not have enough money to pay for housing, while another 35% said the same for books and supplies.
“California is a relatively low-tuition state, but we know that our cost of living is higher and because of those other costs, our students are struggling,” said David O’Brien, the commission’s director of government affairs.Read More
Hayley Hodson’s volleyball career took off when she was still in high school, with an invitation to compete on the U.S. Women’s National Team. As she traveled the world winning medals, the Newport Beach student took care not to run afoul of NCAA eligibility rules barring prospective college athletes from accepting financial compensation, her sights still set on playing for a top school. She turned down an endorsement deal with a sunglasses brand and the stipend offered to her teammates, she says, telling herself there would be time later to play professionally.
But later never came for Hodson, who suffered a career-ending head injury on the court during her freshman year at Stanford.
“My dreams of playing in the Olympics are over,” Hodson, 22, said in an email. “It has been a devastating and difficult, not to mention expensive, journey.”
That’s how Hodson found herself testifying this spring in the California Senate in support of the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which would allow student athletes to profit from the use of their name, image or likeness. Authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, the bill would directly contradict NCAA policies enforcing amateurism in college sports, and is the latest front in an ongoing battle over student athlete compensation.
Past controversies have focused on whether men’s football and basketball stars should share in the revenue they generate for what has become a multi-billion-dollar college sports industry. Skinner, however, is making the novel argument that the students most likely to benefit from her bill are those on the lower rungs of the athletic-industrial complex—female athletes, those in low-profile sports, and even community college players. Those students, she says, often don’t receive athletic scholarships and might never go pro.Read More
Jeanny Morris had a 1-year-old baby and a resume of dead-end retail jobs when she enrolled in the Marinello Schools of Beauty cosmetology program in 2012. She used her welfare benefits to pay for transportation to and from school where, she says, staff pressured her to take out student loans to pay for supplies they had previously promised to provide, such as books, drapes and combs.
Classes intended to prepare students to pass the state’s licensing exam were chaotic, Morris said, neglecting basic skills such as giving perms. Teachers often left students alone to watch YouTube videos. Fights broke out in the parking lot.
“It was like [the movie] Dangerous Minds, minus the good teacher,” the El Dorado Hills resident said.
Morris graduated from the 10-month program with more than $22,000 in student debt, but today is unemployed, saying she’s been unable to find work that pays more than minimum wage.
“I made more money without my cosmetology license than I do with it,” she said. Read More
If the plight of hungry and homeless college students has lately caught the national media’s attention, it’s in no small part due to the efforts of Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab.
Goldrick-Rab, who describes herself as a “scholar activist,” has been trying to get policymakers to address the cost of college for years, advocating policy proposals from free community college to one-stop benefits for low-income students. Her focus on students’ unmet basic needs has popularized the hashtag #RealCollege, and she has set up a research institute to study the problem.
Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab has helped focus attention on the high cost of college.
Earlier this month, she and her colleagues at the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice released the largest study to date of food and housing insecurity among California’s community college students, surveying 40,000 students on 57 campuses. The results weren’t pretty: More than half of students surveyed said they lack reliable access to healthy food, and one in five reported experiencing homelessness.
Students at the University of California and California State University are also going without steady food and shelter, previous reports have found—though at slightly lower rates. The studies have helped inspire a raft of bills in the state legislature aimed at addressing students’ basic needs, from dramatically expanding the financial aid available to community college students to providing housing subsidies and keeping campus parking lots open late for those who live in their cars. Read More
The turmoil in the for-profit college industry has affected California as much as any state, with the closures of major chains leaving thousands of students deeply in debt, their educations on hold. Meanwhile, the state agency in charge of regulating private colleges and vocational schools has struggled to enforce California law.
Now lawmakers and agency officials are seeking to tighten oversight of the troubled sector.
A package of seven bills to be unveiled Wednesday by Democratic state legislators would make major changes to the standards for-profit colleges must meet to operate in California.
One proposal, AB 1340, would bar schools from enrolling California students in programs designed to prepare them for careers if their students’ debt after graduation rises above a certain percentage of their incomes.
It’s based on a “gainful employment” rule adopted by the Obama administration and since delayed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The rule aimed to hold schools accountable for their promises to provide students with a path to a stable career. Read More
As student government president for the California Community Colleges, Iiyshaa Youngblood represents millions of people who scrape to pay for, and complete, even a two-year degree program. So you might expect the Inland Empire psychology major to be excited about a proposal to offer Californians two years of community college tuition-free.
You’d be wrong.
“That bill helps people who can already afford college,” Youngblood, a student at Moreno Valley College, says.
She’s referring to legislation introduced in December that would tack a second year onto California’s existing College Promise Program. The scholarship covers a year’s worth of fees—usually $46 per credit hour—for first-time, full-time students in community college districts that meet certain requirements, such as participating in the federal student loan program and offering counseling services.
The problem, according to Youngblood, is who isn’t eligible: part-time students, who make up more than two thirds of the community college population. While research shows students taking 12 units or more per semester are more likely to earn a degree or certificate, Youngblood says many low-income students are simply too busy working to handle a full-time course load. Read More
Finding housing was one of the first challenges Alyssa Mathiowetz faced as a new graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley. She landed a room in a shared house near campus, but it came with a steep price tag: $1,500 a month.
“It’s definitely on the expensive side,” said the PhD student in metabolic biology.
Mathiowetz’s rent could soon decrease, however, thanks to a new homesharing program that matches graduate students looking for housing with retirees who have extra space in their homes. Its organizers hope the program will prove successful enough to export to other UC campuses.
College students have been hit hard by California’s housing crisis, struggling to find affordable digs near campuses that in many cases are located in the state’s priciest markets.
The median apartment rent in Berkeley tops $3,500 per month, according to real estate website Zillow. On-campus housing is scarce, and ten percent of students in a recent survey reported being homeless at some point in their college careers. Read More