California students will find it much harder to obtain Cal Grant money if restrictions proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown as part of his 2012-13 budget becomes law.
Brown is proposing to increase the minimum GPA requirement for Cal Grant "A" recipients from 3.0 to 3.25 and for Cal Grant "B" from 2.0 to 2.75. The requirements for community college transfers to qualify for the grants would jump from 2.4 to 2.75.
Statewide, in community colleges, this might affect up to 30 percent of applicants according to Kimberly Westby, Dean of Student Support Services at the Cerritos College financial Air Office. “Raising the GPA is all about money,” explained Westby. “There is only so much.”
The merit and income-based Cal Grants are a key part of the financial aid package for many low- and middle-income students. At cerritos college currently 2015 students are receiving Cal Grant B assistance. Cal Grant C funds are assisting about 150 Cerritos College trade school students.
“This is just a proposal that might affect one state program,” said Westby. “There are 12000 students at Cerritos College on federal programs. So it’s unlikely to result in a significant drop in student population.”
Cal Grant "A" currently covers tuition up to $5,472 at Cal State universities, up to $12,192 at the University of California and up to $9,708 toward tuition and fees at private colleges.
Cal Grant "B," for students with lower incomes, provides $1,551 for books, living expenses and tuition assistance, typically for students attending community colleges.
Brown is also proposing to lower the award amount for students attending private, nonprofit schools to the CSU level, which critics say could dramatically reduce opportunities for low-income students who are accepted to private schools such as USC.
“We understand that cutting the budget is necessary, we just hope the cuts are less severe,” said Westby. “We advocate for the students by lobbying and talking to legislators, making sure they have correct and up-to-date data.
Since the deadline for financial aid applications is March 2 and the state budget is unlikely to be finalized before summer, many students could be awarded provisional grants, only to have them canceled.
Students who apply to FASFA are automatically considered for Cal Grant loans, Westby explained. Application forms are available now at the financial aid website www.cerritos.edu/financialaid. The site has information and videos to explaining the process. Most questions students ask are answered there and you can email questions as well.
The governor argues that in a climate of fiscal constraints, financial aid should go to students most likely to complete their degrees — those with higher grades.
Many students may have to work while in college to cover living expenses. Unfortunately, some will be lured into working more hours and end up dropping out of college.
Cal Grant program costs have increased dramatically, from 177,000 students and $688 million in 2004 to an estimated 256,000 students and $1.6 billion in the coming fiscal year, according to state figures. Increasing the GPA requirements would save an estimated $131 million.
This is not the first time the Cal Grant program has come under the budget knife. Opponents defeated several efforts by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut the program.