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SB-737 California Student Opportunity and Access Program.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 09/14/2021 09:00 PM
SB737:v97#DOCUMENT

Enrolled  September 14, 2021
Passed  IN  Senate  September 10, 2021
Passed  IN  Assembly  September 10, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  August 30, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 737


Introduced by Senator Limón

February 19, 2021


An act to amend Sections 69560, 69561, and 69564 of, to amend the heading of Article 4 (commencing with Section 69560) of Chapter 2 of Part 42 of Division 5 of Title 3 of, to add Section 69560.5 to, and to repeal Section 69565 of, the Education Code, relating to student financial aid.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 737, Limón. California Student Opportunity and Access Program.
Existing law establishes the Student Aid Commission and assigns to it numerous duties with respect to student financial aid programs, including administration of the Student Opportunity and Access Program. Under this program, the commission may apportion funds for the support of projects designed to increase accessibility of postsecondary educational opportunities for certain elementary and secondary school pupils. Existing law requires each project to be proposed and operated through a consortium, as specified, and requires at least 30% or the equivalent of each project grant to be allocated for stipends to peer advisers and tutors meeting specified criteria.
This bill, among other things, would instead authorize the commission to apportion funds under the program to projects designed to increase accessibility of postsecondary educational opportunities and financial aid for pupils from underserved communities who meet specified criteria. The bill would impose additional requirements on projects receiving funding, including requiring projects to provide assistance to those pupils from underserved communities who are enrolled in high school and their parents or guardians by providing information on college preparation and on understanding the total cost of attending a postsecondary educational institution, and by assisting with completion of financial aid applications. The bill would require every consortium operating a project to allocate at least 30% or the equivalent of each project grant to college success coaches and for any costs associated with providing training or necessary supplies and equipment to the college success coaches who meet specified criteria.
Existing law authorizes the initial grant for a proposed new project in an area that has demonstrated need for services provided by the Student Opportunity and Access Program to be used for planning and development and requires full project grant funding to be allocated when specified criteria are met.
This bill would repeal these provisions.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The heading of Article 4 (commencing with Section 69560) of Chapter 2 of Part 42 of Division 5 of Title 3 of the Education Code is amended to read:
Article  4. California Student Opportunity and Access Program

SEC. 2.

 Section 69560 of the Education Code is amended to read:

69560.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Lack of information about postsecondary educational opportunities and financial aid are primary barriers to postsecondary education for pupils from schools that have low college eligibility and participation rates.
(b) Since its inception in 1978, the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) has focused on increasing the availability of information and improving college access to postsecondary education for historically underserved student populations by creating a college-going culture, focusing on financial aid application completion, and coordinating student outreach efforts.
(c) The intersegmental consortium nature of the program has proven to be a highly effective mechanism in coordinating existing services and in fostering the cooperation of the various education segments and partner organizations involved.
(d) An essential core of state funding for the program is required to maintain its intersegmental character, which has generated better communication, understanding, and teamwork resulting in a high-impact collective effort, while minimizing duplication of services in a geographic area.
(e) Research demonstrates that many students do not have the financial means to cover the increasing costs of postsecondary education or access to adequate financial aid. Cal-SOAP projects assist pupils in becoming knowledgeable about education costs and financing options, including student financial aid, as they prepare to attain a postsecondary education.
(f) Cal-SOAP projects employ college students from historically underserved communities to serve as college success coaches. This is a cost-effective method to provide information and assistance regarding postsecondary education costs and financial aid opportunities to pupils from schools that have low postsecondary education eligibility and participation rates.
(g) Awareness of financial aid options has historically been a barrier for first-generation students and students from minority backgrounds trying to access a postsecondary education. Research shows that students are widely unaware of their financial aid options and have misconceptions of financial aid eligibility, leading many to not complete the financial aid process.
(h) The COVID-19 health pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges associated with declining rates of postsecondary education enrollment and financial aid application submissions for low-income and first-generation students. Students are in dire need of information and support to help them navigate the college-going process during these uncertain times.
(i) There is a critical need to modernize Cal-SOAP to focus on providing financial aid information and assistance with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the California Dream Act Application (CADAA) to promote college opportunities for low-income and underserved students. Additionally, project staff assist students and families with overall financial aid literacy to help them make the best possible decisions in financing their postsecondary education.

SEC. 3.

 Section 69560.5 is added to the Education Code, to read:

69560.5.
 As used in the article, the following definitions apply:
(a) “CADAA” means the California Dream Act Application.
(b) “Cal-SOAP” means the California Student Opportunity and Access Program.
(c) “FAFSA” means the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
(d) “Local educational agency” means a school district, county office of education, or charter school.
(e) “Public postsecondary educational institution” means a campus of the University of California, the California State University, or the California Community Colleges.

SEC. 4.

 Section 69561 of the Education Code is amended to read:

69561.
 (a) The California Student Opportunity and Access Program is administered by the commission.
(b) (1) The commission may apportion funds on a progress payment schedule for the support of projects designed to increase the accessibility of postsecondary educational opportunities and financial aid for pupils from underserved communities who meet one or more of the following criteria:
(A) Pupils who are from low-income families.
(B) Pupils who would be the first in their families to attend a postsecondary educational institution.
(C) Pupils who are from schools or geographic regions with documented low postsecondary education eligibility or participation rates.
(D) Pupils who are homeless youth and former homeless youth, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 66025.9, or who are at risk of becoming homeless.
(E) Pupils who are from mixed immigration status households or who themselves are immigrants.
(F) Pupils who are current or former foster youth. As used in this paragraph, “current or former foster youth” means a person whose dependency was established or continued by the court on or after the date on which the person reached 13 years of age.
(G) Pupils who identify as being LGBTQ+.
(H) Pupils who have a disability.
(I) Pupils who are part of a historically underserved minority group.
(2) The commission shall allocate up to 2 percent of funding appropriated for this program for program administration, data collection, and evaluation. Any funds allocated for these purposes are not subject to the match funding requirements of this article.
(c) These projects shall primarily do all of the following:
(1) Increase the availability of information for these pupils on the existence of postsecondary education, the total cost of attending a postsecondary educational institution, and financing options, including grants, scholarships, student loans, and work opportunities.
(2) Increase the number of pupils submitting completed financial aid applications, including the FAFSA or the CADAA, and assist pupils as needed with the financial aid verification process.
(3) Hire undergraduate or graduate students to serve as college success coaches to actively mentor pupils, encourage a college-going culture, help pupils plan for their postsecondary education, and help pupils complete a FAFSA or a CADAA for financial aid consideration. Projects should aim to hire college success coaches with similar backgrounds as pupils described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b).
(d) Projects may assist community college students in transferring to four-year postsecondary educational institutions, and students in their first year at four-year postsecondary educational institutions, to the extent that project resources are available.
(e) Projects may provide assistance to middle school pupils described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) and their parents or guardians by implementing outreach efforts designed to inform them of the future availability of and access to postsecondary education financial assistance as a means of motivating pupils to stay in school and complete college preparatory courses.
(f) Projects shall provide assistance to high school pupils described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) and their parents or guardians by providing information on college preparation and on understanding the total cost of attending a postsecondary educational institution, and by assisting with completion of financial aid applications. Projects are encouraged to leverage commission outreach efforts, such as Cash for College workshops, to assist their students with completing the FAFSA or the CADAA.
(g) Projects shall promote the value of career technical education, available career programs in public schools and postsecondary segments with sequenced courses beginning in high school and continuing into postsecondary education, and the resulting career opportunities.
(h) Each project shall establish or strengthen regional collaborative relationships and partnerships. Each project shall be proposed and operated through a consortium that involves at least one secondary school district office, at least one four-year college or university, at least one community college, and at least one of the following agencies:
(1) A nonprofit educational, counseling, or community agency.
(2) A private vocational or technical school accredited by a national, state, or regional accrediting association recognized by the United States Department of Education.
(i) (1) The commission, in awarding initial project grants, shall give priority to the following proposals:
(A) Proposals developed by more than three eligible agencies.
(B) Proposals in counties in which a four-year public postsecondary educational institution is not headquartered.
(2) Projects shall be located throughout the state in order to provide access to program services in rural, urban, and suburban areas.
(j) The governing board of each project, composed of at least one representative from each entity in the consortium, shall establish management policy, approve and provide direction to the project director, set priorities for budgetary decisions that reflect the specific needs of the project, and assume responsibility for maintaining the required level of matching funds, including solicitations from the private sector and corporate sources.
(k) Before receiving a project grant, each consortium shall conduct a planning process and submit a comprehensive project proposal to include, but not be limited to, the following information:
(1) The agencies participating in the project.
(2) The pupils to be served by the project.
(3) The ways in which the project will reduce duplication and related costs.
(4) The methods for assessing the project’s impact.
(l) Each project shall include the direct involvement of secondary school staff in the daily operations of the project, with preference in funding to those projects that effectively integrate the objectives of Cal-SOAP with those of the school district in providing services that are essential to preparing pupils for postsecondary education.
(m) (1) Each project shall maintain a comprehensive pupil data system on pupils receiving services through the program in middle and high school within the participating districts. This information shall be maintained in a manner consistent with the law relating to pupil records. For purposes of assessing financial aid completion and evaluating program effectiveness, the commission shall require each project to submit on a periodic basis to the commission or a commission grantee designee certain outreach metrics for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of the program and the project. The following outreach metrics shall be reported:
(A) Individual student level data, including specification of each target population described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) that includes the student, for the following:
(i) High school graduates not described in clause (ii) or (iii) who were eligible for admission to a public postsecondary educational institution.
(ii) Students not described in clause (iii) who applied for admission at a public postsecondary educational institution.
(iii) Students who enrolled at a public postsecondary educational institution.
(B) Disaggregated data based on target populations described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) for the following:
(i) Students that received Cal-SOAP services.
(ii) Pupils that completed the FAFSA.
(iii) Pupils that completed the CADAA.
(2) For the purposes and facilitation of the evaluation of the programs and the projects funded pursuant to this article, project grantees, local educational agencies, the department, the University of California, the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and the commission may share student data, including personally identifiable information, with one another, including, but not necessarily limited to, information on pupils in grades 11 and 12 and students who have applied to a public postsecondary educational institution, for the purposes of outreach, completion of FAFSA and CADAA applications, and verification of application to and enrollment in a public postsecondary educational institution.
(3) Information shared under this subdivision shall be handled in compliance with all applicable state and federal privacy laws, including the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g).
(n)  At least 30 percent or the equivalent of each project grant shall be allocated for stipends to college success coaches and for any costs associated with providing training or necessary supplies and equipment to the college success coaches who meet all of the following criteria:
(1) Work with middle and high school pupils.
(2) Are currently enrolled in a college or other postsecondary educational institution as an undergraduate or graduate student.
(3) Have demonstrated financial need, as defined by the commission, for the stipend.
(o) Each project should work cooperatively with other projects in the program and with the commission to establish viable student services and sound administrative procedures, and to ensure coordination of the activities of the project with existing educational opportunity programs.
(p) Surveys and other means developed by the projects may be used for purposes of students self-identifying the target populations described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) in which they are included. The surveys or other means established by the projects may be used instead of students providing documentation verifying the target populations described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) in which they are included.
(q) The commission may adopt regulations necessary for the implementation and evaluation of this program and individual projects.

SEC. 5.

 Section 69564 of the Education Code is amended to read:

69564.
 Allocation of any funds appropriated for purposes of this article shall be limited to those consortia meeting requirements of this article who will provide equal matching resources from existing or budgeted increases in federal, state, local, and private funds. It shall be the goal of the program that the total resources provided by Cal-SOAP shall match state funding on at least a 1.5 to 1 ratio. Any new projects approved through expansion of the program shall provide equal matching resources for the first three years of operation and shall be encouraged to increase the matching resources to a 1.5 to 1 ratio with the state grant thereafter.

SEC. 6.

 Section 69565 of the Education Code is repealed.