Universal basic income could come to California colleges

California was able to send $ 500 a month without ties to college students from low-income families as part of the Legislature’s recent approach to a guaranteed basic income plan.

State Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) is considering legislation that would create a pilot program on select California State University campuses that issue monthly scholarships for one year to students whose family income is among the bottom 20% of state employees. Up to 14,000 students could be eligible.

Nearly 11% of the CSU system’s more than 480,000 students said they experienced homelessness in 2018, according to a report from the Chancellery. More than 40% of CSU students reported food insecurity. For blacks, first-generation college students, it was worse, with nearly 70% reporting food insecurity and 18% experiencing homelessness.

“High school students sofa surfing and sleeping in their cars. This could be enough money to rent a room, and if you do not need a room, then use it for what you need it for, ”Cortese said in an interview. “It’s like a booster shot. It could help get them off this treadmill and prevent them from dropping out, being on the streets and becoming homeless in the long run.”

A three-campus plan would cost the state about $ 57 million, and a broader five-campus plan would cost about $ 84 million, according to Cortese’s preliminary estimates, which are based on student income data.

Campuses under consideration for the pilot program include CSU Los Angeles; San Francisco State; CSU East Bay; San Jose State and Fresno State.

Cortese said he will only move forward with the proposal if protection is in place so that students who receive the funding do not receive less from other financial aid programs due to an increase in scholarship income.

The idea, he said, is to make guaranteed income scholarships permanent for university students who experience the most poverty, betting on positive results from the pilot programs.

Other universal basic income programs in the state have shown promise.

A Stockton program created in 2019 by former Mayor Michael Tubbs, now adviser to Governor Gavin Newsom, provided an unconditional $ 500 a month to eligible residents for two years. Preliminary results showed that the program reduced “income volatility”, enabled recipients to find full-time employment and improved their health, according to a Cortese law analysis.

Last year, Los Angeles became the largest city in the country to launch a $ 1,000 per month guaranteed basic income program.

And as part of last year’s state budget, Newsom put $ 35 million into a pilot program of guaranteed income for interested cities and counties, focusing on helping foster children who are pregnant or parents, former foster children and other low-income Californians. Access to this program is not yet available, with applications expected to open next month, according to Newsom’s Department of Finance.

Cortese, who was also involved in the development of the nationwide program, said he suspects it will not be enough to keep up with demand. Targeting the new proposal at college students, a demographic area on which the state is able to track and obtain financial information, is a smart solution to eliminate the problem, he said.

“We have a captured audience and we know where they are: in our state institutions,” Cortese said. “I would just as quickly also manage a program for people on the street, but there is something to be said about working against displacement among a population that is so accessible.”

The plan was inspired by Silicon Valley Pain Index, a report created in 2020 by the San Jose University Human Rights Institute that focuses on wealth and racial inequalities.

Scott Myers-Lipton, lead author of the report and professor at San Jose State, is working with Cortese on the plan, saying that universal basic income programs work because they cut through “bureaucratic rules” that can make it difficult for students to get the help they have. need.

Even critics of universal basic income, who are skeptical of the effects on the economy and unemployment, will have a hard time arguing with this college-based proposal, Myers-Lipton said.

“By having students’ income information, there could be no doubt about the fairness of it. We have students who sleep in the library and live outside tents, ”he said. “I would like to ask, ‘What is your solution to university homelessness?’ For what is happening right now is not cutting. We are talking about the people who are to be our future leaders. It is a no-brainer. “

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