By Evelyn Lucho 

On June 11th, an inspiring gathering of student parents from across California convened to share their experiences and champion AB 2458, the Greater Accessibility, Information, Notice, and Support (GAINS) for Student Parents Act. Authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman and co-sponsored by the Michelson Center for Public Policy, this essential legislation would enhance support systems for student parents to afford, enroll in, and successfully complete their higher education journey. GAINS would allow colleges to comprehensively identify student parents and increase their access to financial aid and support. 

“Voices of Resilience: Revealing the True Costs of College for Student Parents,” hosted by the California Alliance for Student Parent Success and the Michelson 20MM Foundation, was a powerful forum. During this session, student parents bravely shared their financial struggles, highlighting the barriers they face and detailing which avenues of support helped them navigate college. Student parents emphasized the importance of understanding the daunting challenge of paying for childcare and underscored the need to address the real cost of attendance with dependent care adjustments. 

True Cost of Attendance

46% of student parents are Pell Grant recipients, on average. Given their various expenses, it is important to consider their true cost of attendance when receiving financial aid. During the panel, Paulina Rojas, a student parent from the University of California, Davis, described paying for child care as equivalent to paying her tuition for a semester, meaning she is essentially paying double tuition in addition to budgeting for food and housing costs. Several student parents resonated with this experience and shared insights on their true college costs. 

Financial Aid Awareness and Accessibility

To address the disparities in awareness and accessibility, federal law establishes Dependent Care Allowance and Cost of Attendance Adjustments, which are intended to alleviate the actual expected cost and adequately factor in student time to include class, study, fieldwork, internships, and commuting. These adjustments are crucial in supporting students in completing their education. 

AB 2458 Sacramento Day

Assemblymember Marc Berman shared remarks during an educational session.

At the same time, students encounter barriers to accessing this aid due to inconsistent information and awareness about its availability and issues with its accessibility. Student parents are required to individually request adjustments, yet they are not routinely informed of this process or their eligibility. Parenting students emphasized that the process for accessing this aid is not standardized across institutions, making it difficult for them to obtain the financial support they need. Additionally, recipients of this aid reported that institutional personnel need more support to disseminate information and additional training on how to access this aid.

Ultimately, AB 2458 promises to streamline access to financial aid support and the cost of attendance adjustments. It will also collect and report more accurate data on student parents, which will be included in the Cradle-to-Career Longitudinal Data System. The Michelson Center for Public Policy proudly co-sponsors this bill and eagerly anticipates how it will support parenting students in their educational pursuits.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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