In an effort to address food and housing insecurity among California college students, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1278, a bill that requires public universities to include information about public service programs on their campus portals, into law Friday.
Under AB 1278, California State Universities and California Community Colleges system will be required to include information about public service programs on their student web portals. Under the Constitution of California, the UC system is under less legislative control by the state government and can only be requested, not mandated, to make the change.
“The University of California did not take a formal position on AB 1278,” said Andrew Gordon, UC Office of the President spokesperson, in an email. “UC is currently reviewing the materials and information posted on University and campus web sites to determine how UC can best respond to the goals of this measure.”
AB 1278 specifically aims to ensure all public universities in California provide students with direct access to mental health, housing resources and CalFresh, a government program that provides low-income individuals with food stamps.
According to Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, D-San Fernando Valley, who authored the bill, AB 1278 seeks to address the homelessness, hunger and lack of mental health resources faced by students at “alarming rates.”
“It’s unacceptable that so many college students are struggling to find food and shelter,” Gabriel said in a press release. “Our students should be focused on their studies, not worried about where they are going to sleep or find their next meal.”
In the Assembly Higher Education Committee, Gabriel said the bill would streamline the process and make it easier for students to access these services in a “discreet and efficient manner.” He added that students may be unaware of the services available to assist them and feel embarrassed to apply.
According to a survey conducted by the UCOP Institutional Research and Academic Planning, 44% of undergraduates and 26% of graduate students in the UC system reported experiencing food insecurity.
Students from underrepresented backgrounds reported experiencing food insecurity at disproportionately higher rates, however. These students include transfers, members of the LGBTQ+ community and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
According to that same report, 5% of respondents described experiencing homelessness during their time as a UC student.
California Department of Social Services spokesperson Adam Weintraub added that the department is looking forward to reaching out to California residents who are eligible for the CalFresh program.
“It puts food on the table for people who need it,” Weintraub said. “Anything that improves our ability to get the message out there to people who may qualify for the benefit, we are in favor of.”