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Reports from Policy Analysts

Assembly Democratic Leaders Announce “Degrees Not Debt” Higher Education Budget Package

Submitted On: Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Analyst: Melzer, Dan

On March 13th California Assembly Democrats announced a higher education budget package designed to reduce student debt and improve college affordability for students attending the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community College (CCC) systems.

In 2013, California created the Middle Class Scholarship, which covers up to 40 percent of tuition for roughly 55,000 lower and middle-income students. Governor Brown earlier this year proposed the phased out elimination of the program. Without the Middle Class Scholarship, over the course of a four-year education, CSU students could face about $9,000 in increased student debt and UC students could face about $20,000 in increased student debt.

Assembly Democrats announced the creation of the “Degrees Not Debt Scholarship” that will provide a supplemental grant to all full-time students receiving Cal Grants, University Grants, or the Middle Class Scholarship (family income under $150,000) to cover growing non-tuition costs associated with attending college. Under the new program, students would be expected to contribute a portion of the total cost of college through part-time and summer employment and families with incomes over $60,000 would be expected to financially contribute. The Degrees Not Debt Scholarship would then fill in the gap, based upon financial need, so that the full costs of higher education can be met without the dependence upon additional student debt.

The tentative cost estimate for the Degrees Not Debt Scholarship is $1.5 billion. According to Assembly Democrats, phasing in the Degrees Not Debt Scholarship over a five year period would reduce college debt by 20% each year until debt free college is achieved. The proposal faces challenges in making it into the June state budget, given Governor Brown’s reluctance to spend money on higher education in years where a deficit is predicted.

More information on the Degrees not Debt Scholarship can be found at


Academic Level

Higher Education



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