Newsom signs $47.1 billion higher education package into law at CSUN

Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted his $47.1 billion higher education funding plan at the Student Recreation Center in CSUN at Northridge, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2021. According to Newsom, it is the most funding for higher education in modern history.

Shannon Carter, News Editor

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited CSUN Wednesday to sign a series of bills aimed at making college more affordable and accessible for Californians.

“We’re here in the spirit [of ] not just of identifying the obvious, and all the challenges and vexing problems we have, but [with] real strategies and real solutions,” Newsom said. “We have the plan, and this year we have the money to get big things done.”

As a part of Newsom’s $100 billion “California Comeback Plan,” the bills are designed to create affordable student housing, expand financial aid and create more opportunities for in-state students who would like to attend a school in the California State University or University of California system.

The move comes after the state’s budget saw an $80 billion surplus despite the economic impacts from the pandemic over the past 18 months.

The bills signed today will help assist students through a variety of ways such as expanding the Cal Grant program for community college students, revising the Middle Class Scholarship program to cover the difference between a student’s total cost of attendance and other sources of aid, and implementing a Zero Textbook Cost program that helps address the rising costs of textbooks.

The $47.1 billion higher education package includes Assembly Bill 469, sponsored by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), which requires all students to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or California Dream Act application by September 2022, unless they have completed an “opt-out form.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom arrives at CSUN on Oct. 06, 2021 (Briana Walden)

Newsom also signed Assembly Bill 1377, which was authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento). The bill requires the CSU and UC system to conduct a student housing assessment for each campus and create a housing plan that outlines how student housing needs will be met.

Another bill signed by the governor, Assembly Bill 928, establishes a program that provides eligible students the opportunity for guaranteed admission to a UC or CSU campus after they complete an associate degree for transfer or another transfer pathway from a California community college.

“The number one complaint I get is ‘Why can’t my kid get into the CSU? Why can’t my kid get into UC?’” said Newsom in regards to AB 928. “And so we’re trying to reconcile that as well.”

AB 928 gives both the CSU and UC systems until May 31, 2023, to create a joint singular lower division general education pathway.

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro, who spoke shortly before Gov. Newsom said that the implementation of the recently signed bills “will not be easy.”

“It will require hard work and constant collaboration by our faculty and administration across public higher education segments,” Castro said. “But we will do that hard work and open the doors for thousands and thousands of more students, especially those coming from historically underserved communities.”