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PACE Research Brief Reports College Affordability is a high priority for California Voters

By John McDonald
Cecilia Rios-Aguilar

PhD Student Grace Hae Rim Shin and Professor Cecilia Rios-Aguilar of UCLA join with UC Davis Researchers in analysis of PACE/Rossier poll on higher education issues


Many California voters consider college affordability to be a top priority and also support increasing resources for California’s community college students,  according to “Californians’ Attitudes About College Access, Affordability, and Equity in the Time of COVID-19,”a new research brief published by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) in early December. 

Drawing from the findings of the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier annual poll of voters perceptions of higher education, Grace Hae Rim Shin, a PhD student in higher education and organizational change at UCLA, and UCLA professor Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies, teamed with researchers Mayra Nuñez Martinez and  Michal Kurlaender of UC Davis to develop the research in hopes of informing and refining state policies to address inequities in education exacerbated by the pandemic. 

At a time when enrollment in higher education has declined precipitously, the research   finds a large percentage of Californians consider college affordability to be an important educational issue, ranking it second as the most important education issues facing the state.  

Californians also strongly support increasing resources to support student attending community college. More than seven in 10 voters (71%) indicate support for  state funding to cover the full costs of college, specifically “providing more funding for housing or living expenses so more students can enroll in community college programs” (71 percent). 

Strong majorities of voters also indicate support for loan forgiveness (63%)  and the expansion of online college offerings to increase access to college courses (76%). 

The research however underscores differences in perceptions and support of key issues in higher education among California voters. For example, while more than half (51%)  of Democrats rank the issue of college affordability as a priority, just over a third of Republicans (31%) do so.  The brief details differences in views across higher education issues by political affiliation and race and income. 

Read the full research brief at