Jun 3, 2024

California submits proposal to increase federal financial aid access for more community college students

What you need to know: From California’s Master Plan for Career Education, to the community colleges’ Guided Pathways framework and dual enrollment strategies, the state is increasing higher education and workforce opportunities for more Californians.

SACRAMENTO – In line with the goals of California’s developing Master Plan for Career Education, Governor Gavin Newsom and California Community Colleges Chancellor Sonya Christian today announced they submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education to enable students without a high school diploma – or the equivalent – to access Title IV financial aid.

“Regardless of background or credentials, every Californian deserves the opportunity to pursue their dream career and a higher education degree. In partnership with Chancellor Christian, the state is seeking to make community college more accessible and affordable for students without a high school diploma.”
Governor Gavin Newsom

What this means

If the Ability to Benefit (ATB) proposal is approved, an estimated four million Californians without a high school diploma will have access to federal financial aid to attend college classes – increasing opportunity and access to higher education, training, and jobs across the state. Students participating in the ATB process will also have support for their education goals, and access to counseling and academic support, including math and writing workshops, tutoring services, accessibility services, and more.

What California Community Colleges Chancellor Christian said: “This initiative has the ability to change lives. It will open college and career opportunities for adult learners seeking to pursue their academic aspirations, regardless of their background or circumstances. By removing barriers to financial support, we’re moving students closer to success. That combined with the tailored supports in this initiative such as, basic needs support, educational and career counseling and tutoring, will allow students realize and unlock their full potential.”

Bigger picture

This proposal is in line with the Governor’s Master Plan for Career Education, which will align and simplify the TK-12, university, and workforce systems in California to support greater access to education and jobs for all Californians. Additionally, California has elevated both the Guided Pathways framework and dual enrollment as strategies to improve student success rates for all students, particularly low-income working adults.

Within the Guided Pathways framework, California community colleges are structuring programs and support services to provide clearer, more defined paths from entry to completion of a credential or degree. Dual enrollment enables adults seeking a high school diploma or equivalent to concurrently pursue a postsecondary degree or certificate and is a cornerstone strategy for serving adult education learners within the guided pathways framework.