California college students to be paid for climate change work
The stipend comes from the recently formed California College Corps which provides the stipend in exchange for 450 hours of community service work, which includes climate change activism.
At $10,000, students will be earning $22 an hour, $6.60 more per hour than California’s minimum wage, for performing what is typically considered volunteer work.
More than 3,000 low-income California (CA) students will be “taking climate action” to receive $10,000 towards their tuition costs.
The stipend comes from the recently formed California College Corps which provides the stipend in exchange for 450 hours of community service work, including climate change activism.
The program began last year, but now includes 3,200 students across 46 CA universities, “roughly the size of the U.S. Peace Corps,” as noted by California Volunteers, a group affiliated with CA’s Office of the Governor.
500 of the students are AB 540 CA Dream Act students, a policy passed by the CA legislature in 2001 that allows DACA-status students to qualify for in-state tuition.
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As noted on the brochure for the program, “50%” of the participants will be “tutors or mentors in K-12 education,” “28%” will work “to address food insecurity,” but the remaining “22%” will be “taking climate action.”
Campus Reform searched numerous sources to find details of what “taking climate action” refers to, but found no specific details listed online.
Cristian Valdivia Chief Communications and External Affairs Officer at California Volunteers explained in an email to Campus Reform that "climate actions include wildfire mitigation (ie: home hardening), energy conservation, urban greening (ie: tree planting and community gardens), waste diversion, food rescue and environmental education."
But other state leaders have spoken vaguely about what climate action looks like.
In a January New York Times article, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was quoted alluding that he will ensure “hundreds and hundreds” of climate change initiatives will be available for students in programs such as College Corps. But did mention a specific initiative.
The 450 hours are expected to be completed over the academic year. At $10,000, students will be earning $22 an hour, $6.60 more per hour than California’s minimum wage, for performing what is typically considered volunteer work.
Valdivia told Campus Reform that "the goal of this service and professional development program is to reduce the cost of college, providing a debt free pathway." But this comes during a time of record high student loan debt.
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More than 500,000 California college students are delinquent or in default of their student loans. According to data by the Student Borrower Protection Center collected by Ed Source, “[n]early 4 million Californians owe $147 billion in student debt.”
The New York Times estimates College Corps will cost the state “approximately $300 million," which Valdivia confirmed to be an accurate approximation.
CA political leaders and the program’s director are enthusiastic, however.
“Instead of working at a restaurant or a cafe, now you’re going to have the chance to tutor, mentor, take climate action, go to food banks and do other important work,” California’s chief service officer, Josh Fryday told The New York Times. “We really think this is an exciting and unique model, and it’s a model that we hope gets emulated by other states and around the country.”
Governor Gavin Newsom has also chimed in.
He reportedly told the San Francisco Chronicle that California College Corps “makes him more proud” than anything else he has done as Governor, according to California Volunteers.
The enthusiasm for climate change community service, however, comes on the heels of recent green energy policies that have left the state and many of its universities without power, as Campus Reform reported in September.
All parties mentioned have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.