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The Connection

The award-winning news site of Cosumnes River College

The Connection

Assembly Bill aims to increase financial aid

California community college students struggling with financial aid may soon receive assistance in obtaining FAFSA and Pell Grant funds thanks to a bill recently introduced to the California State Assembly.

California Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) has created Assembly Bill 606, a bill that, if passed, would require the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to create a voluntary pilot program that would help students complete the FAFSA.

“The amount of money that we are not tapping into from the Federal Government is staggering,” Williams said. “One estimate from a year or two ago estimated that our community college system is missing out on half a billion dollars.”

According to Williams, many students do not receive aid from the FAFSA because they do not know they qualify for it and don’t apply for it. Due to this, a very large percentage of available FAFSA funds go unused.

AB 606 has received mass support across the state, with 5 community college districts and a student senator majority vote in favor of the bill. Further support is heard through the voice of CRC students.

“I think it’s a good thing. Everybody needs help with school because school’s so expensive now,” said Kelsey Simpson, a 22-year-old journalism major. “It’d probably help out a lot of people who don’t realize that there are ways to pay for school that aren’t just coming right out of their pocket.”

Thus far, the main argument of opposition to the bill is that FAFSA is too much of a hassle for students and is not worth the work that must be put into it.

“People, in some cases, feel like they’re protecting students from having to do too much paper work,” Williams said. “Life in America in the 21st century is about filling out forms. If we’re going to be able to get through life we’ve got to learn to fill out forms.”

However, schools don’t realize that by suppressing FAFSA completion among students, they are also missing out on a lot of money coming in that could be used to open up more classes.

An estimated 100,000 courses were cut last year across the state due to underfunding, particularly summer semester classes. Williams believes this problem could easily be solved if students were simply encouraged to fill out the FAFSA.

“If a bog waiver [qualifying] student get a Pell Grant, then the Pell Grant pays the community college,” Williams said. “So literally while our community college system has been starving, we’re just not trying that hard to get federal money.”

The first vote for AB 606 went up in committee on April 9, 2013 and will go into appropriations soon. If passed, the bill will take a trial period in which selected community colleges will get to participate.

“…Not all colleges will have the opportunity to participate [in the trial period] if more than 10 are interested,” said Roy Beckhorn, director of the financial aid systems in the Los Rios Community College District. “[Whether] or not CRC or any one of the Los Rios colleges will be a pilot college is yet to be determined,”

Despite the initial plan, Williams is hopeful that he will quickly be able to expand the program, and any community college that wishes to participate in the trial period will be able to do so.

When asked about funding for the bill, Williams stated that though it will require a small amount of funding, he is confident it will be deemed “minor and absorbable.”

Williams believes opening more classes and helping students get through community college in shorter time is the most important educational issue to be addressed right now, and believes AB 606 is a solid solution to this problem.

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About the Contributor
Nick Valenzuela
Nick Valenzuela, News Editor
News Editor, spring 2015. Opinion & Online Editor, fall 2014. Sports Editor, spring 2014. Production Manager, fall 2013. Staff member, spring 2013.  

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Assembly Bill aims to increase financial aid