Assembly Majority Leader Reyes (D-San Bernardino) joined Governor Gavin Newsom at California State University, Northridge for the signing of AB 469, a bill authored by Majority Leader Reyes to implement the requirements that high school seniors complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (CADAA). AB 469 is a follow-up to AB 2015 of 2018 which required that school districts provide information to students on how to properly complete and submit the FAFSA and CADAA applications. Additionally, Majority Leader Reyes worked with Governor Newsom to include in the 2021-2022 state budget funding and requirements related to the completion of these important applications, which have a demonstrated impact on the future of higher education success of high school students.
A 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.
“Higher education is a life-changing experience that uplifts entire families and communities to build intellectual capital and wealth,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “Too often, high school students and their families may believe that college is out of reach, but the completion of financial aid applications increases the likelihood they will attend college and makes the dream of higher education more tangible. The evidence is clear – students who fill out a financial aid application in their senior year are 63% more likely to go to college. AB 469 ensures all students—including our first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students—get the support they need to submit critical forms for financial aid. The bill prioritizes protections for undocumented students and equips local educational agencies with the resources they need to implement the bill at the local level.
AB 469 was supported by groups such as the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Mi Familia Vota, BLU Educational Foundation, and The Education Trust-West.
“I support 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 the Governor sign AB 469 (Gómez Reyes),” said Dr. Christopher J. Nellum, Executive Director of The Education Trust-West. “Now that California has a statewide policy to ensure that every high school senior submits a financial aid application, we must ensure the spirit of that policy becomes reality for students across the state. That means making sure that our schools and districts have the data capacity to implement this requirement successfully. AB 469 (Gomez Reyes) will supplement the budget agreed upon by both the Governor and the Legislature, and move us a step closer to being all-in for financial aid.”
AB 469 adds additional cleanup provisions to the state budget language to ensure effective implementation, including language to link data to the Cradle-to-Career Data System and to define the types of non-profits that are qualified to assist students with applications.
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, 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.
AB 469 ensures effective implementation of the requirement in the Governor’s Budget for 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 supports the Legislature’s intent to make higher education accessible to all California students, regardless of their immigration status. The measure garnered bipartisan support in the Legislature and will take effect on January 1, 2022.