California Governor Signs Bills on 'Dream' Aid and 'Affirmative' Consent

Earlier this week, California Governor Jerry Brown acted on several bills affecting higher education.

On Sunday, Gov. Brown signed into law legislation to establish the California Dream Loan Program, which will allow public university students who are ineligible for federal loans because of their immigration status to borrow from their institutions instead. Undocumented students in the state are already eligible for Cal Grants and can pay in-state tuition, and some universities have their own programs that provide resources for those students, The San Jose Mercury News reported.

Without access to federal grants or loans, many students still have financial aid gaps. The new program aims to close those gaps by offering loans at relatively low interest rates and is expected to have up to 3,000 borrowers in its first year.

Also signed into law is a bill that will require colleges in the state to use an "affirmative consent" standard in evaluating allegations of sexual assault, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Under the new law, the standard for consent to sexual activity in campus judicial hearings shifts from whether or not a person said "no" to whether both partners said "yes." Many universities already use what is known as the "affirmed consent" standard when investigating sexual assault allegations, but the new law will require all campuses in the state to use the standard as a condition of receiving state funds for student financial aid. The measure also requires other steps by colleges to better educate students about consent and sexual assault.

Many women's advocates have praised the legislation, while some civil liberties advocates have expressed concern that the law shifts too much of the burden of proof in these cases to the accused.

Another bill, now signed into law, will allow some of the state's community colleges to grant four-year degrees. California now joins 21 other states that have given two-year colleges the authority to award bachelor's degrees, The Sacramento Bee reported. The measure, Senate Bill 850, will heighten the community colleges' focus on job training and will increase access to higher education, according to State Senator Marty Block, a Democrat who introduced the bill.

Gov. Brown also signed legislation that bans companies from using personal information gathered from students using online education technology for anything other than the purpose for which it was collected, The Journal reported. The Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA) prevents companies from selling student data, limits disclosure of students' personal information, and ends targeted advertising on K-12 websites, services and applications.

California State Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, who wrote the bill, said that the measure fills a major void in privacy law. While the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects students' personal information from disclosure by educational agencies, the growing use of new technologies has made federal law deficient. He said the new law proves that "privacy and online innovation can be complimentary partners."


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The San Francisco Chronicle

The San Jose Mercury News

The Sacramento Bee

The Journal