New Law Creates Pot of Emergency Funds in California

Inside Higher Ed

California governor Gavin Newsom signed a suite of bills affecting higher education Friday, including Assembly Bill 943, which opens up a large pot of state funds to be used for emergency student aid.

The bill, written by Democratic assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco and passed 40 to 0 on the Senate floor, lets community colleges use funding from the California Community Colleges Student Equity and Achievement Program for emergency student financial assistance.

There is no cap on how much money from the fund each college could decide to put toward emergency grants, but the colleges must update their student equity plans to include emergency grants as a possible intervention, according to Jen Kwart, spokeswoman for Chiu. The bill encourages colleges to take into consideration the characteristics of their own student body, including how many students could benefit from the emergency funds.

The bill was cosponsored by the California Federation of Teachers, Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, City College of San Francisco Faculty Union, Los Rios College Federation of Teachers and Scholarship America. No one voiced opposition to the bill while it moved through the State Assembly and Senate, according to legislative documents. However, the potentially burdensome fiscal impact was noted throughout the analyses.

The Student Equity and Achievement Program is already funded at $475.2 million. The money goes toward student success services like tutoring, peer-mentoring programs and equity-focused professional development for faculty.

With the new bill, funds can now be used for emergency assistance, defined as support to “assist a student to overcome unforeseen financial challenges” like housing and food assistance, textbook grants, and transportation assistance. Eligible students are defined as those experiencing an unforeseen challenge, who are making satisfactory academic progress and who are at risk of not continuing due to the financial challenge.

“With the cost of education as high as it is, many students are just one financial crisis away from being forced to drop out of school,” Chiu said in a press release. “We want to give students who experience an emergency a bit of stability so they can continue their studies.”  …(continue reading)