Legislation to Ensure Students Complete Critical Financial Aid Applications Passes the Assembly Floor

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Sacramento –Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes’s (D-San Bernardino) legislation, AB 469, passed the Assembly Floor. This bill will ensure that high school seniors complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (CADAA).

A low-income student who wants financial assistance to attend college must complete the FAFSA to access institutional, state, and federal aid such as grants, work-study jobs, student loans, and critical financial aid resources like the Community College Promise Program. Similarly, the CADAA provides an opportunity for undocumented and nonresident documented students to apply for and receive state aid.

“The evidence tells us that completion of the FAFSA leads to a substantial increase in college attendance,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “In fact, 90% of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA attend college directly from high school, compared to just 55% of FAFSA non-completers. By ensuring that our graduating seniors complete critical financial aid forms like the FAFSA and CADAA, we are directly connecting students to the resources they need to pursue higher education.”

COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequities students face when applying to college, including completing financial aid forms. According to an Ed Source analysis, our state saw an 11% decrease in FAFSA applications and a 45% decrease in CA Dream Act Applications since the outbreak of the pandemic. Many eligible students do not complete a financial aid form because they believe they are ineligible, have no information on how to apply, or thought that the forms were too much work. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of those who do not complete a financial aid application are low-income students.

In 2018, California passed AB 2015 (Reyes) that requires public schools serving students in grades 9-12 to offer information on how to properly complete and submit a FAFSA and CADAA at least once before 12th grade. This bill will build upon AB 2015’s efforts by making sure students not only receive information about the FAFSA/CADAA but also ensure all students submit a financial aid form so they can access critical financial aid resources needed to attend college.

“I support a policy like this because I was a student who benefited from getting assistance when applying for the California Dream Act for the first time as a high school senior,” said Beatriz, a student at CSU Channel Islands who works at a Dream Resource Center. “If it wasn't for the help I received that day when filling out the Dream Act, I would not have been successful in transitioning from community college.”

“We are very excited to see AB 469 (Reyes) pass the Assembly Floor today with so much support," said Brian Rivas, Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations at The Education Trust - West. "California is one step closer to a statewide policy to ensure every high school senior submits a financial aid application. ETW's decade-long campaign in this college transition space will change lives for thousands of students and open the door to a postsecondary education by allowing all students and parents to know what financial resources are available to them. We hope, that when combined with the Governor’s budget proposal, our state will finally be all-in for financial aid.”

AB 469 requires LEA’s to ensure high school seniors complete the FAFSA or CADAA before graduating. This bill is a California Latino Legislative Caucus priority bill that is aligned with the Governor’s budget and supports the Legislature’s intent to make higher education accessible to all California students, regardless of their immigration status.

 

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Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes is the newly-elected Majority Leader of the State Legislature, representing Assembly District 47 which includes the cities of Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Grand Terrace, San Bernardino and the unincorporated areas of Muscoy and Bloomington.