LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Saying they want to counter a growing problem of college students graduating with mountains of debt, California Democratic legislators have introduced a proposal to expand financial assistance by

providing scholarships that would cover not only tuition but assist them with living expenses.

The “Degrees Not Debt” program, which legislators hope to include in the state’s budget, would provide scholarship to roughly 390,000 California State University and University of California students, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the need to students to obtain loans. According to the Assembly Democratic Caucus, the scholarships would be phased in over the course of five years, reducing student debt by 20 percent annually.

The proposal would also offer tuition-free community college for the first year for full-time students, and expand the Success Grants program to help lower-income students cover living expenses.

The program is expected to cost $1.6 billion the first year, then drop to about $1.2 billion in subsequent years.

“Lower-income students … are able to many times, through our great programs in California, get help to pay for tuition. But they’re still graduating with a tremendous amount of debt,” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, who is spearheading the plan, told the Los Angeles Times. “The cost of living, the books, the transportation — that’s (what) we really need to tackle.”

There’s been no official response from the governor’s office on whether Gov. Jerry Brown would be amenable to incorporating the plan into the state’s budget.

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