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Keeping California's Promise

Keeping California's Promise

California’s Master Plan for higher education, adopted in 1960, guarantees a place in college for every state resident who can benefit. The historic blueprint produced systems and programs that have served as models for other states and for countries across the globe. Now that much of the rest of the world has caught up to California, the state needs to find new ways to keep its promise.

TICAS is starting this work with a focus on the role of financial aid in serving the 2.5 million students at California’s community colleges.

See all of our research and publications about community colleges
(in and outside of California).

2015-16 California Budget: Getting the Greatest Returns on New Financial Aid Investments
January 10, 2015 - California Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, and it includes some much-needed resources for higher education. For the state's public universities it provides new funding, contingent upon UC and CSU keeping tuition flat, and it supplies community colleges with more funding, including $200 million to invest in student success. Within financial aid programs, the budget plan includes a boost to the Middle Class Scholarship program.

California Budget Includes Long Overdue Financial Aid Increase
June 24, 2014 - The California state budget signed in June will make an important down payment towards college affordability for the state's most financially strapped students. The agreement includes a long-overdue increase to the Cal Grant B access award, which helps California's lowest income students pay for books, supplies, transportation, and other non-tuition costs of attending college. Under the new budget agreement, the award would increase from $1,473 to $1,648 - a much-needed step in the right direction after decades of stagnation and a recent cut.

Playing the Cal Grant Odds
June 6, 2014 - Noting there are 16 eligible applicants for every authorized "competitive" Cal Grant award, our blog post found that it's tougher for an eligible student to earn a competitive Cal Grant than to beat the odds in Vegas, get into an Ivy League college, or get drafted to the Major Leagues.

Helping the Lowest Income Students Will Have the Highest Returns: What the California Legislature Can Do Right Now to Strengthen Cal Grants
May 20, 2014 - Blog post on how the California Legislature can improve college affordability for low-income college students and strengthen the Cal Grant program.

Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Research Director of the Institute for College Access & Success

March 13, 2014 - Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Research Director of the Institute for College Access & Success, for the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, Subcommittee 1 on Education "Cal Grants and College Affordability."

Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Research Director of the Institute for College Access & Success

March 5, 2014 - Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Research Director of the Institute for College Access & Success, for the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 Hearing on Education Finance "Cal Grants and College Affordability."

Supplement to Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, TICAS Research Director, on Cal Grant Program

March 5, 2014 - This document contrasts college costs and affordability for California public colleges. It is a supplement to the testimony of TICAS research director Debbie Cochrane at the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2 on Education Finance hearing on the Cal Grant program.

California Budget Proposal Includes Narrow but Important Cal Grant Fix
January 9, 2014 - Blog post highlighting the narrow but very important improvement to the state Cal Grant program included in the California Governor's budget proposal that would allow students who become ineligible because their family income rises above Cal Grant thresholds to reenter the program should their income drop again.

Strengthening Cal Grants to Better Serve Today's Students

April 8, 2013 - TICAS and more than a dozen other student, civil rights, business, and college access organizations have come together to release a new analysis of how Cal Grants could better serve low-income college students. The Cal Grant program provides $1.5 billion in need-based grant aid that each year helps hundreds of thousands of Californians pay for college. However, the report finds that many needy college students either do not receive Cal Grants or receive less than others with more resources.

Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Research Director of the Institute for College Access & Success
October 7, 2013 - Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Research Director of the Institute for College Access & Success, for the California Assembly Higher Education Committee Oversight Hearing "Affordability as a Barrier to Access and Success at California's Public Colleges and Universities."

Cal Grant Snapshot

September 24, 2012 - Illustrated fact sheet on the Cal Grant program, which provides more than $1.5 billion in need-based financial aid to California's college students, representing a significant state investment in college access and success.

Click here for more information about Cal Grants

Making Loans Work: How Community Colleges Support Responsible Borrowing

August 22, 2012 - Our report takes a closer look at how some forward-thinking community colleges in California are promoting responsible use of federal student loans - ideas that can be adopted by colleges across the country.

Letter in Support of AB 1637

April 11, 2012 - Letter submitted by a coalition of organizations representing students, teachers, consumers, and civil rights in support of California bill AB 1637, which would better target Cal Grant dollars towards colleges where students have a greater chance of success and less chance of being saddled with debts they cannot repay.

Cal Grant GPA Increases Would Hurt College Completion Rates
March 6, 2012 - Governor Brown's 2012-13 proposed budget would substantially raise the grade point average (GPA) thresholds required to receive new Cal Grants, locking out more than a third of applicants currently eligible for entitlement grants -- particularly those who need Cal Grants to stay enrolled and complete college.

Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Program Director of the Institute for College Access & Success

February 14, 2012 - Testimony of Debbie Cochrane, Program Director of the Institute for College Access & Success, for the joint oversight hearing of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee entitled "California's Oversight of Private Postsecondary Education."

TICAS Comments on Student Success Task Force Recommendations
December 1, 2011 - TICAS comments on the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force's draft recommendations, "Refocusing California Community Colleges Toward Student Success."

What the Cal Grant Program Means to California's College Students

April 15, 2011 - One pager detailing how the Cal Grant program has helped low- and middle-income Californians afford college.

Letter in Support of AB 970
March 21, 2011 - Letter in support of AB 970 (Fong), which would provide first-year tuition and fee benefits to Cal Grant B recipients.

The structure of Cal Grant B was designed under the assumption that low-income students would attend community colleges, where tuition and fee costs are not a barrier. Today, it has the unintended consequence of steering qualified students away from attending four-year colleges. AB 970 would address this inequity, sending a clearer message of affordability to California's low-income students. 

After the FAFSA: How Red Tape Can Prevent Eligible Students from Receiving Financial Aid
July 8, 2010 - This report sheds light on what happens to federal financial aid applicants after they submit the FAFSA. Using 2007-08 financial aid data from 13 California community colleges, TICAS found that one in three likely Pell-eligible applicants did not receive a Pell Grant.

Financial Aid Facts at California Community Colleges

March 17, 2010 - Hundreds of thousands of California Community College (CCC) students are eligible for federal Pell Grants but do not apply, leaving up to $500 million unclaimed in 2009-10. This fact sheet compares CCC financial aid application rates to the rest of the country, and also examines the inadequacy of financial aid that some CCC students do receive.

Quick Facts About Community Colleges and Financial Aid, 2007-08
May 13, 2009 - About one in four full-time college students in the U.S. - 2.2 million students - attends a community college. Of full-time community students who applied for financial aid, 80 percent did not get as much aid as they needed in 2007-08. We also found that although a relatively small percentage of community college students take out private student loans, these borrowers were much more likely than their peers at four-year institutions to miss out on cheaper federal loans.

Joint Letter to Legislators to Save the Cal Grant Program

March 29, 2009 - The Institute for College Access & Success was one of seven California organizations that signed on to a letter to state legislators in protest of the proposed elimination of the Cal Grant program.

Governor Proposes Eliminating Cal Grants for More Than 200,000 Students this Fall
March 26, 2009 - In direct contrast to federal efforts to increase college access during the current recession, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating all new Cal Grants, along with deep cuts to public university systems and other essential state programs and services. The Cal Grant program has been an integral part of California’s commitment to college access and affordability for more than 50 years. Since 2001, all qualified graduating high school students have been guaranteed a Cal Grant.

Paving the Way: How Financial Aid Awareness Affects College

October 2008 - In a time of over-rising college costs, financial aid is critical to increase access and success. Federal, state, and institutional aid programs help to ensure that students can afford higher education regardless of economic background. Financial aid is most effective when students and families learn about it early enough to make the right choices and plans about high school coursework, family savings, work and earnings, and college options.

This literature review explores the questions of how and when students and families learn about college costs and financial aid, and how the timing and substanceof that information may impact college-going behavior.

 document iconDownload as pdf

Cal Grant Cuts Would Hit Community College Students Hard
March 27, 2008 - Many more community college students than students at California’s four-year colleges would lose financial aid under GovernorSchwarzenegger’s proposed budget for 2009. This issue brief finds thatthe budget-cutting plan would eliminate new Cal Grant awards for 45percent of community college students who would have received them,compared to five percent of would-be recipients at the University of California and 10 percent in the California State University system.

Green Lights & Red Tape report coverGreen Lights & Red Tape: Improving Access to Financial Aid at California’s Community Colleges finds wide variations in financial aid policies and practices at the state’s community colleges, which can have a major impact on students’ access to available aid. We hope that our findings and recommendations encourage students, administrators, and policymakers to maximize the use of federal and state aid dollars. 

Read the executive summary

Read the full report


We value your feedback. What are your reactions to Green Lights & Red Tape? Send comments to california [at] ticas [dot] org.

Keeping California's Promise Publications