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California College Promise Plan

Californians celebrated in 2017 when lawmakers passed the California College Promise program which allocated $46 million to 114 community colleges to help with college costs, not restricted to tuition. It left the option to the colleges on how to use the money. Some colleges, such as Mount Saint Antonio College chose to not use any of their funds for tuition and instead used the funds on student services for all new first-time students. Other colleges used some of the money to help students with tuition, while also using some of the funds to help students with other college needs such as textbooks, transportation, fees, and food. The only restriction was that the money be used to help first-time students who were taking at least 12 units a semester.

A companion bill in the Legislature, AB 2, would make the first two years of school free for many of California’s 2 million community college students. Assemblymember Miguel Santiago wrote the bill to extend the California College Promise that waived the first year for students to include the second year as well. In addition, under this new bill, anyone who does not already have a degree can apply, rather than having to be a first year student. Even though the bill still needs to pass through the main legislature and be signed by the governor before it can be enacted, the state Assembly Committee on Higher Education passed AB-2 by an 11-1 margin on March 19th, which gives an extremely promising outlook. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who proposed the addition of $40 million to the California College Promise program, is sure to sign it once it passes through the legislature.

Student Loan Interest Rates Drop

In addition to the California College Promise program, need-based grants have slightly increased while interest on need-based loans have decreased. On July 1, the maximum federal Pell grant increased from $6,095 to $6,195 for the 2019-2020 school year.  Interest rates for federal loans are going down to 4.53 from the current 5.05 percent. Direct unsubsidized loans for graduate students will carry a 6.08 percent rate, down from 6.6 percent. Interest rates for direct PLUS loans for parent and graduate students will also decrease. Loans originated in 2019-2020 will have a 7.08 percent interest rate instead of the 7.6 interest rate that they had last school year.

For a chart (by The Institute of College Access and Success) summarizing Federal Student Loan Amounts and Terms for Loans Issued in 2019-2020, click here. This chart summarizes the interest rates, loan limits, and other terms for federal student loans issued from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

For more on calculating the cost of college, read our blog on Net Price Calculators.