State Sen. Richard Roth introduces bill to include summer sessions in Cal Grant

Brian Bi/Staff

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In a press release published Friday, California state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, introduced SB 461, a bill he authored that works to extend the Cal Grant program so that it can offer financial aid for nine units of summer courses, or two summer terms.

California is in a college graduate deficit and will have one million too few graduates in 2030 if the current trend continues, according to Roth’s SB 461 fact sheet.

The bill’s goal is to give students more access to summer courses, which will increase the number of students graduating in four years, according to the fact sheet. The bill is sponsored by student groups such as the University of California Students Association, or UCSA, and the Coalition for a Better UC, or CBUC.

As the Cal Grant program functions now, UC students and Cal State students do not currently have access to funding through the program for summer courses. The bill hopes to give low-income students the funding they need to attend summer courses so that they may take advantage of the opportunities and benefits of summer learning.

“That gap in financial aid creates an impediment for far too many students trying to graduate on time,” Roth said in an email.

According to a statement by chair of CBUC Kuvimbanashe Edwin Chikukwa in Roth’s press release, 70 percent of students in the California State University system fail to graduate in four years, and “the majority of first generation black and brown Pell Grant recipients” at UC campuses also struggle to graduate on time. The bill will provide low-income students with the same opportunities as their more affluent peers, according to UCSA President Caroline Siegel-Singh.

Recently, the federal government extended Pell Grant eligibility to cover summer sessions, according to the SB 461 fact sheet. The bill strives to follow this initiative, giving students more access to funds for year-round aid.

“The most effective aspect of the bill is that it compliments a system that’s already in place. The bill does not reinvent the wheel. It addresses a gap that several UC and CSU students have brought to my attention,” Roth said in an email.

Chikukwa said CBUC believes Roth will be their “champion” for the bill. Siegel-Singh stated that the bill addresses a larger conversation about “financial aid and who it helps.”

Summer courses are more expensive per unit than regular classes, driving students away from taking these courses, according to the SB 461 fact sheet. According to the fact sheet, student organizers who are working to address the problem of academic affordability have expressed that they would take advantage of summer school if funding was available to counterbalance the increased tuition in summer terms.

“We must have mechanisms in place to assure our college students are successful. Right now, our students are telling us they want/need to enroll in summer session courses to graduate on time, but can’t enroll in those courses because of the additional cost,” Roth said in an email. “SB 461 gives our students a break and much- needed flexibility.”

Contact Brennan Havens at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BrennanHavens.