Streamline and Modernize the Cal Grant Program for Students
The Cal Grant program has not kept pace with the changing needs of students, while evolving into a complex patchwork of programs.
By JosÃ© Medina
Member of the Assembly JosÃ© Medina, a Riverside Democrat, represents California’s 61st Assembly District. He is chairman of the Assembly’s Higher Education Commission.
Member of the Assembly Kevin mccarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, represents the 7th Assembly District of California. He is chairman of the House sub-committee on education funding.
Connie Leyva, special for CalMatters
State Senator Connie leyva, a Democrat from Chino, represents California’s 20th Senate District. She is chair of the Senate Education Committee.
We could not imagine the difficulties of being a student in 2021. Today, students face many obstacles to pursue higher education including competitive acceptance rates, lack of jobs after graduation. graduation, delayed graduation, and disjointed resources for housing, basic needs and mental health. .
In addition to these difficulties, we must find how to pay for university studies, especially for those who are on low income but find themselves excluded from student assistance programs. Our students will determine the future of this state, and we must do more to support their academic success.
For over three years, we have worked with the California Student Aid Commission, educators and student groups to reform the Scholarship program – the financial aid system of our State. Not only has the program failed to keep pace with the changing needs of students, it has evolved into a complex patchwork of programs. There is an overwhelming consensus that we need to streamline and modernize Cal Grant – and we totally agree.
In addition to working on this effort through Assembly Bill 1456, we have actively championed and secured historic investments in the budget to achieve a debt-free college as chairs of our respective committees. The state budget has set two new goals: to raise the university pass rate to 70% and to increase the number of high school students filling out financial aid applications.
However, California cannot meet these goals without ensuring that our state financial aid resources, coordinated with federal and institutional programs, cover the full cost of education – tuition, as well as accommodation, food and books which constitute a growing share of university costs for students. students.
Several reforms must be adopted to make Cal Grant accessible and fair to all those who cannot afford to pay for college. By doing this, we can keep our promises to the students. These reforms must be approached through policies and cannot be resolved only through the budget process.
AB 1456 removes all man-made barriers to Cal Grant, such as age, time spent in high school, and GPA for college and university students. It simplifies the programs by creating two awards, respectively – Cal Grant 2 and Cal Grant 4. These awards will be aimed at community college and four-year college and university students. For community college students, this means an access scholarship to cover costs other than tuition. The state will cover tuition and student fees at four-year universities, encouraging institutions to use their aid to cover basic needs.
Finally, AB 1456 aligns state and federal policies; Including recognition, our Cal Grant program is complementary to the Federal Pell Grant. Last December, Congress adopted the Free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) Simplification Act, which changed the eligibility formula and eliminated several questions from the FAFSA that provide the information required by state law to determine eligibility for the Cal grant. California cannot ignore these changes.
We are convinced that the AB 1456 is the most logical solution. Since an additional 279,000 community college students and an additional 40,000 students attending four-year public universities would be eligible, it makes good sense for the Californian higher education segments and the Newsom administration to support this effort.
This year we must embrace Cal Grant’s reform and achieve a debt-free college. We cannot wait for another fiscal windfall. We cannot wait for the federal requirements to take effect. We cannot let more students struggle for basic needs, or choose between work and school. The state must do it now.
For the sake of California students, we urge Governor Gavin Newsom to sign AB 1456.