‘Degrees Not Debt’ budget package set to make college more affordable

Mahrukh Siddiqui, Staff member

The Democratic leaders in the assembly announced the Degrees Not Debt higher education budget package earlier this week making college and university more affordable for students in California.

In addition to a press release, Assembly democratic leaders outlined the details for the new budget package during a Facebook live press conference on Monday, March 13.

This new budget package is geared towards helping reduce student debt and making college affordable for almost 2.8 million undergraduate students at the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community College (CCC) systems. 

The Degrees Not Debt budget package is set to allow community college students’ tuition to be free for the first year for any in-state students, expand on the ‘Success Grants’ programs at CCC systems, which will help cover living costs for Cal Grant B recipients.

DVC students’ who were interviewed said that making the first year for community college free would be greatly beneficial for them.

DVC student, Me’Kayla Hopkins, 19, said that the first year of community college being free would be beneficial for her because she does not qualify for scholarships and financial aid due to family income.

In the Facebook live press conference, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago said; “providing one year of free community college to all first-time, full-time students can expand access to financial aid, promote equity, increase enrollment, help improve academic performance, and boost college completion rates.”

The program also rejects Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate the Middle Class Scholarship, or MCS,  which covers up to 40 percent of tuition for roughly 55,000 lower and middle-income students.

“Getting into college is challenging,” Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), chair of the Assembly Budget Committee said.

“Figuring out how to pay for it should not be more difficult. Access to aid dramatically increases the odds students enroll in college and graduate.” 

The budget package also includes the Degrees Not Debt scholarship, which will provide supplemental funds to full-time students in the UC and CSU systems who receive Cal Grants, university grants or the MCS. The scholarship is designed to minimize the dollar amount of student loans, and debt, one would have to take on.

When asked about his thoughts on lowering the debt college students accumulate and making college and university more affordable for students DVC student Mathew Reynolds said,

“I believe that higher education should be available to everybody.”

“The total cost of attending college, whether it be a two or four-year institution, has grown significantly over the last years. I am pleased to be part of an assembly plan that will ensure our students have access to not only a quality education but one that calls upon the state to pay for their tuition and assist in their living expenses.”  Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, said in the press release.

The program is planned to be established as a part of the 2017 Budget Act with the first scholarships being distributed in the 2018-19 school year.