New Report from College Futures Foundation

State of California Higher Education in 2020:
Opportunities to Scale Success and Serve All Students

As this new decade begins, California higher education stands at a crossroads of great opportunity.

While most states have not fully reversed the spending cuts of the Great Recession, California is now spending more per student than in 2008. Investments in remedial education reform, improved counseling and services, and streamlined college pathways are moving more students toward academic achievement and degree completion. Success rates are growing at each segment, from community college students earning the credits needed to transfer to California State University and University of California students graduating within six years.

In 2020, we need to keep the momentum going to ensure that all students have an opportunity to attend college and earn a degree, regardless of their zip code, skin color, or income. Although the vast majority of California's K-12 students are of color and low-income, these students continue to make up a minority of graduates from our state's universities.

Investing in equitable higher education outcomes strengthens our state economically and socially. When students earn a bachelor's degree, they will significantly boost their family's socioeconomic status for generations to come. Communities benefit from increased employment and revenue, decreased reliance on social services, increased civic engagement, and faster growth in technology and other innovations.

Even with the threat of a recession, California will be able to overcome the challenges ahead if state leaders build on recent advances in college access and success. Our state's greatest assets are our young people, and as such, higher education must center on their needs. With these priorities, we can scale our gains and serve all students:

  • Operate as one education system. Challenges and changes within each segment of our educational system-K-12, community colleges, and universities-impact the others. Yet issues such as curriculum and capacity often are handled in silos, without much regard to each institution's place in a broader system. The recent formation of the new Governor's Council for Post-Secondary Education is a good start to greater alignment, and we should do more to organize, incentivize, and support leaders working together. With better coordination, the sharing of resources, and a collective sense of responsibility to support students on their entire educational journey, we can more easily remove barriers and enable students to achieve success in college and beyond.

  • Develop sustainable, predictable financing. With budgets that are determined year to year, California higher education operates in constant uncertainty. We need a new financing system that allows us to make long-term plans and encourages access and success for all students. Multi-year budgets would help stabilize funding so that policymakers and educational institutions could make better resource allocation decisions. Similarly, families should be able to understand and plan for college costs. Tuition changes should be set for each incoming cohort of students and tied to the cost of living index rather than increased dramatically to make up shortfalls. We also should explore a reserve fund that could be accessed during bad economic times to protect students from abrupt tuition increases and severe cuts in services. Whatever the details of a new finance system, students should no longer have to bear the consequences of our failure to plan.

  • Modernize the financial aid system. Today's college students are more likely to be older, poorer, and have families to support. According to the recent Student Resources and Expenses Survey, about one-third of California students have struggled with housing or food insecurity, and students across all segments and regions spend an average of $2,000 per month for non-tuition costs. Increasingly, the public conversation about college affordability focuses on the full costs of attendance, not just tuition. But state policy has not kept up. Although the state has budgeted funds for emergency housing and increased Cal Grant funding, policymakers should do more to support low-income students across all segments. The financial aid system needs to be reformed to better reflect the changing needs and demographics of students. Completing a degree is critical to the long-term success of families as well as the state, and students should not be forced to choose between going to school and paying rent.

  • Expand capacity . Every year, California's universities turn away tens of thousands of qualified students, threatening our state's economic future and widening racial, income, and geographic inequities. California cannot afford to squander the hard-earned gains that have resulted in more students becoming college-ready; we must make room for success. The state needs to lean into and expand initiatives to guide students to their goals and help them complete their degrees more efficiently. Physical space can be leveraged more creatively and effectively, such as sharing facilities and offering more flexible class schedules. Regional partnerships between higher education, businesses, and governments, such as Growing Inland Achievement and the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, can better assess local needs and develop solutions. By taking immediate action to accommodate the increased demand, we are ensuring that our students and state can realize their full potential.

These priorities are bold and ambitious and will require time, resources, and political will as well as focused effort from all of us - from policymakers to education leaders to numerous partners - working together. But California has never been afraid of dreaming big and achieving ambitious goals. Our state built its economic strength on providing quality, accessible postsecondary education. Now, we are poised for even greater success; we can reimagine higher education to expand the benefits of economic growth and social mobility to everyone. 


New Statewide Survey Details Full Cost of College Attendance

Students Report Housing and Food Expenses as Barriers to High Education

September 2019, College Futures Foundation--Paying for the full cost of attending college - including tuition, housing, food, and transportation -- is the biggest barrier to success for most California students, particularly those from low-income families and communities of color. 

Initial insights from the Student Expenses and Resources Survey (SEARS) draw from first-hand accounts of students from all of California's higher education segments. The redesigned survey was conducted for the first time in ten years by The California Student Aid Commission in partnership with Mathematica, a data research firm, and College Futures Foundation, which also funded the project.  

The SEARS data is based on responses from more than 15,000 students from the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, non-profit private institutions, and for-profit colleges. Findings were analyzed by region, race and ethnicity, age, and whether a student has a dependent, information that is not available in current federal financial aid databases. 

A combined 64 percent of students surveyed chose either "cost of college" or "balancing school and work responsibilities" as the greatest obstacle to their success in college. Details of their challenges included: 

  • About one-third of students struggled with housing and food insecurity. 
  • Costs beyond that of tuition alone are significant. Students across all segments and regions reported spending an average of nearly $2,000 per month on non-tuition expenses, including housing, food, transportation, books, and personal expenses (such as medical costs). 
  • At least 30 percent of students in all regions experienced housing insecurity. The highest rate was in the Central Valley, where 41 percent of students did not have enough resources to cover their housing costs. 
  • Black students reported the highest rate of food insecurity at 52 percent and housing insecurity at 40 percent, followed by Latino students, who reported food insecurity at 40 percent and housing insecurity at 38 percent. 

"This survey allows us to hear directly from students, and they are telling us that they are facing insurmountable pressures and impossible trade-offs," said Monica Lozano, President & CEO of College Futures Foundation.  

"Completing a college education is critical to the long-term success of these families and our state as a whole-but paying rent and putting food on the table are not optional. They shouldn't have to choose," Lozano continued. "The findings will be essential in addressing barriers to higher education so all of California's diverse students can succeed." 

SAT to add 'adversity score' that will factor student hardships into college admissions

The adversity score will take into consideration a student's neighborhood, family and school environments and then generate a number based on those factors

May 16, 2019, -- The SAT exam, used by a majority of colleges to grant entrance, will be adding an "adversity score" to the test that will take into account a student's socioeconomic background in an effort to help colleges take a more rounded approach in the admissions process. The new measure, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is aimed at factoring in student hardships that are not reflected in test scores."Through its history, the College Board has been focused on finding unseen talent. The Environmental Context Dashboard shines a light on students who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less. It enables colleges to witness the strength of students in a huge swath of America who would otherwise be overlooked," said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees the SAT.

"There is talent and potential waiting to be discovered in every community - the children of poor rural families, kids navigating the challenges of life in the inner city, and military dependents who face the daily difficulties of low income and frequent deployments as part of their family's service to our country. No single test score should ever be examined without paying attention to this critical context," he added in a statement to NBC News.

The adversity score, called Environmental Context Dashboard, will take into consideration a student's neighborhood, family and school, and then assign the student a number based on those factors. More specifically, the score will fall on a scale between 1 and 100, with an average score of 50 - anything above that would show hardship. The calculation, which will be sent to colleges but not shared with students, will be based by looking at the crime and poverty rates of a student's neighborhood, as well as their parents' income level. Race is not a factor in the score, according to the College Board. The adversity score also adds additional context to a student by including the average number of AP courses taken and scores from AP tests, as well as the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, according to the College Board.

The College Board has already conducted a test run of the adversity score program at 50 schools. The program will officially roll out to 150 additional schools by the end of the year, with plans to add more in 2020. Results from the pilot program were positive in part because they provided decision makers with more context so they could take a more holistic approach to decision making, according to the College Board.

"We are proud that results from our pilot of the tool show that using the Environment Context Dashboard makes it more likely that students who demonstrate strength and resourcefulness in overcoming challenges are more likely to be admitted to college," Coleman said in a statement.


New Graduation Data About the Class of 2013

52% Graduated with Bachelor's Degree--Others Still In Progress

Many donors have asked us if our Scholarship recipients have completed their coursework and what the graduation rate is for the recipients. The Foundation recently completed an extensive review of the 48 Scholars that graduated from High School in 2013 and we are pleased to present the following results:

  • Scholarships Awarded = 48 (100%)
  • Students Not Located = 12 (25%)
  • Number of Bachelor's Degrees Received = 21 (44%)
  • Number of Bachelor's with Master's Degrees = 4 (8%)
  • Number still pursuing AA or Bachelor's = 5 (10%)
  • Number of Bachelor's pursuing PhD = 1 (2%)
  • Number that attended but no additional info available = 5 (10%)
  • Grand Total Receiving Bachelor's Degrees = 26 (52%)

The National graduation rate is about 60%. However, we are unable to access school records as privacy regulations make it impossible to locate some students including those that may have had name changes. If we look at the total graduation rate of the students we located, we get a resounding 68% graduation rate with the liklihood that others still attending college may graduate in the near future. Congratulations Class of 2013!


Scholarship Requirements

The 2020 Scholarship Application Process Opened on January 13, 2020




To all applicants


  1. Current high school senior attending a high school in the West Valley of San Bernardino County, or current college student attending one of our partner colleges.
  2. Student needs to create a free scholarship profile with Scholarship America - Dollars for Scholars at
  3. 3.50 G.P.A. or higher
  4. One letter of recommendations (teacher, professor, or adviser) ​
  5. ​In 250-300 words response, answer the following questions:
    • ​​Give us an example of a time where you overcame adversity.
    • Describe how your leadership skills assisted you in completion of a task in either your community or academic career.
    • Describe one of your accomplishments and how can this experience assist you in your filed of study and your future goals.
  6. ​Community Service - 25 hours total
  7. If awarded scholarship, scholars must attend the annual Mayor's Gala during the month of May and bring a total of 10 guest to the scholarship award night event.
  8. A minimum of 3 hours of participation in an Esperanza Scholarship Foundation Dollars for Scholars' Event.


Scholarship Resources

Link to 40+ Scholarships

One of the Foundation's long-term supporters, Senator Mike Morrell, has an excellent list of scholarships on his web page; take a look as there might be a good fit for your interests: 

(there's over 40 organizations with links to their web pages).

The Best Scholarship Search Platforms of 2018

"College is the most expensive it's ever been. A great way to manage the growing cost is scholarships. Because there's no single source for scholarship listings, your best option for finding funding is dedicated scholarship search platforms. These sites compile thousands of active scholarships and match you to them based on your unique qualifications. We found four that promise to maximize your scholarship potential with large databases, smart filters, application tools, user-friendly design, and educational resources."

​Should you have any questions feel free to contact us via email at We are more than glad to answer any of your questions.