Governor Signs Bill to Help Homeless College Students Retain Financial Aid Amid Global Pandemic

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

SACRAMENTO, CA — Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 2416, by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), which will require colleges and universities in California to consider whether a student is experiencing homelessness when making a determination about whether the student should continue to receive financial aid.

“It’s shameful how many college students in California are struggling with homelessness,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel. “This legislation will help keep the doors of opportunity open for our most vulnerable students by enabling them to retain their financial aid, remain enrolled, and graduate with a degree. In these challenging times, we must ensure that California’s higher education system remains a pathway out of poverty and into the middle class, as it was for my family and millions of others across the Golden State.”

Every year, thousands of students in California lose access to financial aid because they fail to meet certain benchmarks necessary to demonstrate “satisfactory academic progress” or “SAP.” AB 2416 would require that colleges and universities consider homelessness as an “extenuating circumstance” when evaluating appeals to restore financial aid for students who fail to achieve SAP.

Recent data suggests that homelessness impacts nearly 20 percent of California community college students, more than 10 percent in the California State University (CSU) system, and 5 percent at the University of California (UC) system. Research further demonstrates that students from historically underrepresented communities are disproportionately impacted by homelessness and that access to financial aid is essential for low-income students to remain enrolled and graduate with a degree.

College students in the San Fernando Valley and across Los Angeles County have faced particularly significant challenges related to homelessness and housing insecurity. About one in five students in the LACCD have faced homelessness in the past year, and about two-thirds of them cannot afford to eat a balanced meal, according to a recent survey commissioned by the system’s board of trustees. The Department of Health Services at Pierce College in Woodland Hills has recorded a steady rise in cases of homelessness, noting that homeless students often face hunger and instability, which affects their ability to graduate and transfer to four-year institutions.

 

Higher Education Leaders React to the Signing of AB 2416

  • Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez — “Homelessness and food insecurity among college students has reached crises proportions,” said LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez. “This bill would allow students who are in danger of losing their financial aid due to homelessness to appeal the decision, thereby giving institutions of higher education the opportunity to fairly and humanely consider all circumstances impacting the student’s academic standing before terminating a student's financial aid. We commend the Governor for his signature on this important bill.”

 

  • California State University Northridge (CSUN) President Dr. Dianne F. Harrison — “By signing this legislation into law Governor Newsom has codified protocols we at the CSU and at California State University, Northridge already engage in to support our homeless and housing insecure student population,” said CSUN President Diane Harrison. “This legislation will now bring parity to the three higher education systems in California by requiring colleges and universities to consider homelessness as an extenuating circumstance when evaluating appeals for the loss of financial aid. We understand all too well the heavy burden that homelessness and housing insecurity poses to the graduation success of our students and we do all that we can to help mitigate those factors. We commend Governor Newson, Assemblymember Gabriel, and the California Legislature for working in a bipartisan fashion to address this disparity and promote practices that keep students on the path to graduation.”

 

  • UC Students Association (UCSA) President Aidan Arasasingham — “For a student, the worry of facing both homelessness and losing financial aid, especially during this pandemic, is unimaginable and unacceptable,” said UCSA President and UCLA student, Aidan Arasasingham. “Colleges and universities need to ensure every student, regardless of housing situation or income status, can access affordable education. UCSA is committed to ensuring all students, particularly UC’s most marginalized students of color, have access to higher education and we thank Assemblymember Gabriel for championing this critical legislation.”

 

  • John Burton Advocates for Youth Project Director Debbie Raucher — “Financial aid means the difference for many students between staying in school or abandoning their educational aspirations,” said Debbie Raucher of John Burton Advocates for Youth, a leading foster and homeless youth advocacy organization. “AB 2416 will offer a lifeline to the most vulnerable college students, during a time in our history when such a lifeline is most desperately needed. We applaud the legislature for moving this bill forward and Assemblymember Gabriel for his leadership on this issue.”

 

  • CSUN Student Dannielle Ramos — “For students like myself from low-income backgrounds, financial aid makes college possible. It allows students the opportunity to do something they’re passionate about that they otherwise would probably not have an opportunity to do,” said CSUN sophomore Danielle Ramos. “When faced with rules that make access to financial aid more challenging, many students will just give up. For students like me, AB 2416 will offer a lifeline to opportunity.”