Calif. Students Struggle With College Costs

September 13, 2019

A majority of college students in California believe that college costs and balancing school with work inhibit their ability to succeed, according to initial survey findings released Thursday by the California Student Aid Commission.

This is the first time in more than a decade that the commission has conducted the Student Expense and Resources Survey (SEARS), which provides data that help determine Cal Grant and other state financial aid eligibility.

Of the 15,000 respondents to the survey, 31 percent said the largest obstacle in college is balancing school and work, while 33 percent said it was the cost of college. About one-third of respondents also reported grappling with food and housing insecurity.

Respondents reported spending $2,020 per month on nontuition expenses, like rent, food, books and transportation. The survey also examined responses by microregion, finding that housing insecurity was greatest in the central valley region (which includes Fresno) and food insecurity was greatest in the northern inland region (which includes Shasta). Compared to others, black students reported the highest levels of insecurity, despite receiving federal Pell or Cal Grants at similar or higher rates. Older students and students with dependents also reported higher levels of insecurity, as well as higher expenses.

The commission plans to release segment-specific data sets early next month.

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