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California could send $500 a month with no strings attached to college students from low-income families as part of the Legislature’s latest approach to a guaranteed basic income plan.

State Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) is considering legislation that would create a pilot program at select California State University campuses, issuing monthly stipends for one year to students whose family income is in the bottom 20% of earners in the state. Up to 14,000 students could be eligible.

Nearly 11% of the CSU system’s 480,000-plus students said they experienced homelessness in 2018, according to a report from the Office of the Chancellor. More than 40% of CSU students reported food insecurity. For Black, first-generation college students, it was worse, with nearly 70% reporting food insecurity and 18% experiencing homelessness.

“College students are couch surfing and sleeping in their cars. This could be enough money to rent a room, and if you don’t need a room, by all means, use it for what you do need it for,” Cortese said in an interview. “It’s like a booster shot. It could help get them off of this treadmill and stop them from dropping out, being on the streets and becoming homeless long term.”

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