This afternoon the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges (CCC) endorsed the final report of the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force, which lays out eight chapters of recommendations to improve student success throughout the community college system. The Board will present the recommendations to the California Legislature by March 2012.
While there is much to like in the Task Force report, we are disappointed by the lack of attention paid to overall college affordability and financial aid. Our research has shown that CCC students are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grant aid on the table simply because they don’t apply for aid, even though total costs can exceed $17,000 per year and many students have such low incomes that they can’t contribute any amount towards college costs. We’ve also found that access to federal student loans is worsening in California in particular. Over 200,000 community college students – the largest number in any state – lack access to federal loans because their colleges have pulled out of the program. These problems are not unique to California, but they are particularly serious in the CCCs.
The issue is simple. Financial aid supports success by providing students with the time they need to attend class and study, without having to work excessive hours to make ends meet or take fewer classes per term to make room for work. As we detailed in our comments submitted last month, the lack of substantial attention paid by the Task Force to students’ affordability challenges is a major oversight, and one that we hope will be rectified in the next phase of work.