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COVID-19’s Impact on CA Public College Students

In a matter of days, the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions. As colleges and universities closed campuses, students were suddenly faced with a precarious future: many found themselves out of work and stable housing, facing unexpected costs, and often without the technology or supplies to continue working toward their degree.

In partnership with the College Futures Foundation, we made a decision to step up and give California’s low-income college students what they needed most: direct cash assistance. Between April and June, the CA College Student Emergency Support Fund provided direct cash assistance to more than 6,000 low-income college students in California’s public higher education system. The Fund distributed relief with an equity lens, prioritizing students without income or access to relief, and with children relying on them. In July, MAF followed up with grant recipients to understand how the crisis was impacting students’ lives. Over two weeks, 3,193 students responded to the post-grant survey, sharing how they were making ends meet and how MAF’s grant had impacted their academic and financial journey.

In this Rapid Response Insights Series, we pull back the curtain on the financial lives of college students. We explore how, across thousands of students, financial strategies and resources are interwoven with family responsibilities. When we look ahead, our response needs to be guided by one fundamental understanding: if we truly want to help people reach their goals, we have to focus on what’s foundational—financial security. We invite you to step into the financial lives of CA’s low-income public college students and explore the full insights series.

Shareable Insights

Webinar: Ensuring College Student Success Through Equity-Centered Relief

Insights #1: COVID-19’s Impact on CA College Students
Insights #2: College Students’ Financial Lives Differ Across CA’s Higher Ed Systems
Insights Report: Targeted Cash Grants Effectively Support Students’ College Success

Support for this research was provided by the College Futures Foundation.