In 2021, John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) initiated research and developed practice and policy recommendations related to SAP standards and financial aid appeals as part of The Overlooked Obstacle series. Highlighting the disparate impact of SAP on minoritized student populations, the series revealed that nearly one in four first-year, low-income students attending a California Community College did not meet SAP for their first two consecutive semesters, jeopardizing their access to much-needed financial aid. For African American (34%) and Native American (32%) students, the rates of financial aid disqualification due to SAP are twice that of White (15%) and Asian (14%) students. Unfortunately, many of these students either disenroll or lose their financial aid, marking the end of their educational journeys and creating new challenges for those who wish to re-enroll.

To address these concerns, JBAY, along with the student associations from each of California’s public higher education systems and five of California’s leading college affordability advocates, co-sponsored Assembly Bill (AB) 789, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman. AB 789 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 8, 2023, and must be fully implemented by institutions by the start of the 2024/2025 academic year. This toolkit was developed to support financial aid offices in implementing the AB 789 provisions and creating student-friendly, equity-based SAP policies and appeals processes.