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California Democrats unveil new plan for debt-free college

Students protest the rising costs of college loans in Los Angeles in 2012. Citing bank bailouts, the protesters called for student debt cancellations.
Students protest the rising costs of college loans in Los Angeles in 2012. Citing bank bailouts, the protesters called for student debt cancellations.
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Members of the California State Assembly unveiled a college aid proposal Monday that that aims to help California students graduate with less debt. 

The plan supplements current aid plans, paying not only for tuition but also living expenses, with the goal of eliminating the need for student loans for nearly 400 -thousand students in the Cal State and UC Systems.

Take Two's A Martinez spoke with Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission. "This plan intends to cover a student's unmet needs. For instance, after loans after health federal and cal grants, what else does a student need? This new grant program offers that additional coverage," she said, explaining how this plan would capture the intended goals of Assembly Democrats. 

On what coverage this plan would cover

"For many many years, California has been very generous to providing tuition and fee assistance to many students. In addition, students also avail themselves to the cal grant which paid tuition and fees. but it's just not enough. The cost of attending a higher education institution is in the $20,000 and $30,000 range a year. And so even after a student avails themselves of the federal and state aid along with work study and some loans, there's still an unmet need a parent and a student needs to contribute. This is an opportunity to pay for a transportation, child care, the cost of rent and food and insurance."

On whether it's possible to get any closer to free college than this plan

I think this is as close as we can get just because the number and volume of students we have. i think there is an expectation that parents and students contribute to their education. There's going to be some level of loans. But the fact is that the cost of living in California doesn't compare to other states. this goes a long way towards trying to meet some of those needs for the students that really need it. Even for a family making 100,000 or 120,000 or 150,000, spending 30,000 on each child to go to college is cost prohibitive. I think that this supports that California dream of getting that additional, post-secondary education.

 On what she'd like to see from any future proposals

I'd like it to be fair and very transparent and open. I'd like students to understand what they're financial potential is. Regardless of where they go, our agency would like to communicate with them, as early as possible, And let them know this is what you could afford to get at CSU, UC community college and private university so they know well in advance. 

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Answers have been edited for clarity.