"California voters strongly support increasing state-funded financial aid for both low-income and middle-income students at public colleges and universities, according to a Berkeley IGS/EdSource poll. However, that support is uneven depending on party affiliation and geographic region," EdSource reports.
"Analysts said those poll results could influence the ongoing debate in Sacramento about proposals to vastly bolster such aid and those plans’ possible impact on college enrollment and graduation rates. California already provides some of the most generous financial aid in the nation to cover tuition and, as a result, college students graduate with some of the lowest total education loan debt in the nation. Still, the discussion’s focus has widened recently to whether students’ costs for room, board and transportation should be covered fully too and whether community college tuition should be free to all for at least the first year.
The poll, conducted by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies on behalf of EdSource, found that 48 percent of respondents said it was 'very important' for the state to provide more tuition assistance, loans and financial aid to qualified students from low-income families to attend the state’s public colleges and universities. An additional 31 percent described the goal as 'somewhat important,' while only 14 percent said it was not important.
When a question focused on boosting aid for students from middle-income families, the poll also produced positive results: 40 percent responded that it was a very important goal and 41 percent as somewhat important. Just 12 percent ranked it as not important.
California has a program that provides some aid to middle class families with incomes generally between $80,000 and $150,000 annually, but it is limited. The legislature earlier this year successfully resisted Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to abolish the middle-class aid and Brown finally signed a budget that continued it along with the much larger Cal Grant program for low- and moderate-income students.
Differences between voters from the two major political parties was evident in the survey, which included other questions that mainly explored K-12 education issues. On the question of increasing aid to low-income college students, 64 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans ranked that goal as very important. The gap persisted on whether more middle class grants and loans are very important: 53 percent of Democratic respondents said so versus 23 percent of Republicans.
Interestingly, such political differences narrowed somewhat when the responses for 'very important' and 'somewhat important' were combined. In that case, more aid for low-income students won support from 92 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans; on the middle-income aid, 91 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans said it was 'very' and 'somewhat' important."
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Publication Date: 10/13/2017