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Latino Daily News

Wednesday May 11, 2011

College Affordability in California at Risk for Latinos and Other Minorities

College Affordability in California at Risk for Latinos and Other Minorities

Photo: Scholarships for Latinos

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The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA today released two studies showing that college affordability in California is at risk and financial aid is urgently needed. 

Across the board students are found to be working too many hours to keep up with their studies and a huge proportion (30%) of those surveyed may abandon their studies and hopes of getting a college degree. The lowest income students are now getting a smaller share of the CSU’s State University Grant (SUG) than they received in the past, says the Civil Rights Project study, and middle-income students need increasingly more aid to keep up with rising costs. Although the federal Pell Grant has grown in recent years, the recent budget agreement means that it will not grow as tuition rises in the next several years and it will not be available for summer study after this year.

Although the Master Plan for Higher Education called for tuition-free affordable college for all qualified California students, the fiscal reality of California has led to the abandonment of that promise and rapidly rising tuition and other costs of college.  Over the last decade, the Civil Rights Project reports, the California State University (CSU) has sustained a substantial decrease in state general funds and has offset these decreases by increasing tuition and fees by over 166 percent.  In 1967 the state paid approximately 90% of a student’s education while today it pays approximately 64%.  As costs associated with college rise for students, including housing and books, attending and financing college may become too difficult for students with the greatest financial need, the reports find, particularly the state’s majority of Latino and African American youth.

The first study, by San Jose State University Professor Amy Leisenring, says that due to rising college costs and budget cuts, 86% of students surveyed in the study work for pay while in college, with underrepresented minority students comprising a large majority of students who work while in college.  Leisenring’s study explores the impact of recent budget cuts on Latino, African American and American Indian students, their views on tuition/fee increases and the affects of working in paid employment on their academic success.  Higher Tuition, More Work, and Academic Harm:  An Examination of the Impact of Tuition Hikes on the Employment Experiences of Under-represented Minority Students at One CSU Campus is based on survey data of 163 underrepresented minority students (URM), as well as in-depth interviews with 16 URM students.

Leisenring reported, “Many students spoke about the challenges of being told right before the semester started that they had to pay higher fees or face being dropped from all of their classes. Even students whose tuition was mostly or fully covered by financial aid were impacted by this as the university expected the students to come up with the funds for the fee increase before many students’ financial aid was processed.”

Key Findings:

86% of students reported working for pay; the majority working only one job (76%), while others held more than one job. 
The average number of hours worked was 27 hours per week.

83% of students worked 15 hours per week (83%); 36% reported working over 35 hours per week.  (Other research shows that students working more than 15 hours a week suffer in their academic performance).


60% of students report not being able to take the classes they need due to their work schedules.


Students report taking longer to graduate (62%) due to work, lacking time for school work (86%), lowered grades (70%), and multiple students reported missing many opportunities for on-campus support programs (65%), including faculty office hours. 


30% of students responded that they are considering dropping out of college.

The report concludes by urging policymakers to increase state funding for the SUG program so that it can prominently help those students with the greatest financial needs. Santos states, “In a state with extreme income inequality and flat or declining wages for many families, but where middle class status is increasingly limited to college graduates, this is an urgent priority.”