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Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Guest Opinion: Cal Grant B, Taxpayers, More Moolah

It’s not exactly easy to keep up with legislation. There’s a whole lot of political jargon and confusing legalese. Not to mention after sitting through class all day, it’s not the most riveting read. However, it’s crucial that we keep up with legislation that directly affects us as both students and taxpayers. So let’s buckle down for a minute and look at something important, shall we?

Let’s talk funding a college education — something I imagine is close to many of our hearts. Moolah, dough, greenbacks — you get my drift. We fork out a lot of it to attend university, as do California’s taxpayers. There’s not a single public university student who doesn’t have their education partially underwritten by the California taxpayers. It only makes sense that we make sure we are getting the maximum benefit from that investment.

Today I want to draw your attention to two bills, SB 798 and SB 174, both of which aim to increase the under-funded Cal Grant B Access Awards for over 170,000 California students.

When the Cal Grant B Access Award was first established in 1969, the amount granted per student for the year was $960. In a perfect world in which the grant had kept up with inflation and the growth in student expenses, it would currently be awarding students around $5,900 per year. It’s not doing that. Forty-five years later the amount has grown to only $1,550 per year, and it doesn’t take an economics major to see that doesn’t even come close to keeping up with inflation.

Basically, these two bills seek to leverage federal dollars to help offset the skyrocketing college costs. SB 798 would establish a College Access Tax Credit Fund, the contribution  which would return to taxpayers a percentage of that contribution in the form of a tax credit.

For instance, an individual or a corporation gives, say, one dollar to the College Access Tax Credit Fund. In turn, California gives the taxpayer a 60¢ credit for the $1 donation and the College Access Fund retains 40¢ of the original donation. Then, good ole’ Uncle Sam gives the taxpayer a deduction for their charitable donation to the state (about 15¢). So the taxpayer is only out of pocket about 25¢, but there is a credit in the College Access Fund. That’s not very scary, certainly doable, and also optional.

SB 174 would then draw upon this credit fund to supplement the Cal Grant B program to increase the maximum reward from $1,550 to $5,000 (Take that inflation; we’re gaining on you). The Franchise Tax Board predicts that the College Access Tax Credit Fund would net over $500 million the first year at no cost to the state.

College graduates are the future innovators, educators, engineers, doctors, executives, etc., that help make California the eighth largest economy in the world. And as a college student, I can also personally testify that we’re pretty awesome. SB 798 and SB 174 have wide support from student groups, and have received bipartisan support in both houses. These bills are currently being read in the legislature as urgency statutes, meaning that these programs will go into effect immediately upon passage if they receive a two-thirds majority support. It’s not in our nature to stay silent — make sure your voice of support is heard alongside.

If you’re looking to get involved or stay up-to-date on student relevant legislation (who am I kidding? Of course you are!), follow us at facebook.com/ASUCDLobbyCorps — we’ll try to make it as fun and painless as possible.

Allison Butler

Communications Assistant, ASUCD Lobby Corps



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