Recently, the FCAN team traveled to Atlanta for the National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN) 2022 Annual Conference. Over three days, FCAN attended workshops, sat in on fireside chats, and connected with peers from across the country united in advancing the right to postsecondary attainment.
In fact, “Advancing the Right to Postsecondary Attainment” was this year’s conference theme for NCAN, and the events couldn’t have been more aligned with this message.
One particular session really shined a light on the financial burden students go through as they navigate their postsecondary journey:
Session Title: #HandsOffMyScholarship! Reasons to Center Student Voice and Get Involved in Advocacy Work.
- Jason Vazquez, Policy & Development Associate, Southern California College Attainment Network
- Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton, Director of Higher Education, Public Advocates and Northern California College Promise Coalition
- Michele Waxman Johnson, CEO, Bold Thought Partners, LLC
This session explored the practice of scholarship displacement and how the student voice was placed front and center in order to successfully pass a bill.
Scholarship displacement occurs when students have their institutional aid decreased upon being awarded a private scholarship. Ultimately, students have their total amount of financial aid decreased, resulting in less money to cover their college expenses.
When SoCal CAN and the Northern California College Promise Coalition came together, they realized that while this was happening to many students across California, there was a stunning lack of data. Many of these occurrences of scholarship displacement weren’t reported or identified in the records of the state’s colleges and universities. That was when the organizations realized they would have to rely on the student voice to advocate for policy change.
After their initial efforts were stalled during the pandemic, the organizations were successful in mobilizing their members, partners, and other stakeholders for this issue. A bill was filed in the California Assembly, where students testified on the experiences they’ve had after their scholarship was displaced. As the bill moved through California’s legislative process, SoCal CAN and the Northern California College Promise Coalition created social media toolkits featuring a call to action.
Through their hard work and persistence, Assembly Bill 288: California Ban on Scholarship Displacement Act of 2021 was passed and signed into law. Now, starting with the 2023-2024 academic year, public and private colleges in California are prohibited from displacing students’ private scholarships if they meet certain conditions. More than one million students in California will benefit from this bill, including those who receive a federal Pell Grant or California’s financial aid.
With this bill, California also becomes the 5th state to ban scholarship displacement. Vazquez told FCAN that the work is not yet over for SoCal CAN. Now, their focus is on making sure students are aware of their rights and how to proceed when and if they receive a private scholarship. This is just another successful step in addressing the cost of attendance for postsecondary education and making sure pathways are available to all students.