Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes’s (D-San Bernardino) bill to make sure that high school seniors complete and submit Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (CADAA) has been included in AB 132 the Education Budget Trailer Bill that is part of the state budget package.
Among its various education funding provisions, AB 132 includes the requirements contained in AB 469 (Reyes) that will enable high school seniors to maximize the funding that may be available for them to attend college or university. According to the National College Access Network, 90% of high school seniors who complete the FAFSA attend college directly from high school, compared to just 55% of those that do not complete FAFSA.
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.
“I am so excited to see the contents of AB 469 included in the 2021-22 Budget. By requiring the completion of financial aid applications, California will join states like Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas, which have already implemented similar statewide policies and have seen their students reap the benefits,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “This bill will change lives for students across the state and open the door to higher education for those who may not have been able to access it without aid.”
COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequities students face when applying to college, including completing financial aid forms. According to an Ed Source analysis, California 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, had 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 grade 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 FAFSA/CADAA but also ensure all students submit a financial aid form so that they can access critical financial aid resources needed to attend college.