Gov. Gavin Newsom to decide by October 10 to make financial aid more accessible to low-income students by signing Assembly Bill (AB) 1456, which reforms California’s financial aid program Student Aid Commission (CSAC).
If passed, the bill will increase eligibility for low-income students by making financial need – instead of grade point average and age – the primary consideration for state college grants. .
The bill will specifically reform the Cal Grants program, which provides the majority of financial aid to California students.
Jessie Luxford, coordinator and founder of the Berkeley High School (BHS) Bridge Program, which helps African American, Latin American and low-income students in their transition to college, said AB 1456 could have benefits for students and adults helping with the college admission process.
“I hope that by simplifying [the Cal Grants system] it would be an incentive for more students to apply, âsaid Luxford. âWith Bridge students, we help them every step of the way, so that they apply, whether it’s simplified or not. [A simplified bill] helps us navigate this whole process, and it’s less of a headache for everyone, âhe said.
Currently, there are three types of grants that have complex eligibility requirements which include age, grade point average, financial need, and college type. Cal Grant A provides money for tuition and fees at four-year universities, Cal Grant B provides money for non-tuition fees at any college and Cal Grant C provides financial assistance to students pursuing a professional or technical program. Only one grant can be awarded at a time.
Cal Grants A and B have financial, GPA, and age requirements to determine eligibility, and Cal Grant C has financial need requirements.
AB 1456 will simplify the current grant system and Cal Grants 2 and 4 will replace A, B and C. For community colleges, the Cal Grant 2 program will cover non-tuition expenses and community colleges will waive tuition fees. . Financial need will determine grant eligibility; all surrogacy and age requirements are dropped. Cal Grant 4 will reduce the GPA requirement from 3.0 to 2.0 and remove age restrictions.
These changes would allow Cal Grants to reach an additional 200,000 students. While opponents of the bill argue that the maximum grant amount could decrease as more students become eligible, Luxford said the decrease will be minimal.
However, AB 1456 will no longer cover costs other than tuition for students at the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU). Cal Grants’ current program covers both tuition and fees for the four years and living expenses after the first year, but Cal Grant 4 only covers tuition and student fees. The CDOF fears that AB 1456 will put pressure on schools to provide assistance with living costs and will therefore increase tuition and tuition fees.
“[Pressuring schools to raise tuition] would be contrary to what they are trying to do, which is to create more fairness, âLuxford said.
The CDOF is also opposed to the bill because it would limit aid to many middle-class students. However, these students could still receive help from the Middle Class Scholarship Program, which sets the average income up to $ 184,000 per year. Up to 40 percent of tuition and expenses can be covered by this program.
âI think it’s a downside that they have to take money from other students who need it,â Luxford said. âWhat is considered an average income is often not enough to survive in California. â¦ But if [reducing middle income scholarships to help low-income students] had to be the choice, I would support the decision to make college affordable for low-income students, âLuxford said.
Mendel Chernack, a ninth-grade Universal English teacher (U9) and former teacher of Achievement Via Individual Determination (AVID) – a program that prepares students for eligibility and success in college – said the Eligibility for Cal Grant for middle income students is important at BHS.
“There are a lot of people in [BHS] who belong to the middle class, âChernack said. âOften, children of lesser means have the right to a lot of financial aid. People who are really rich can afford [college], but the people in the middle, they don’t get a lot of financial help, âChernack said.
According to Luxford, lowering the GPA requirement for Cal 2 and 4 grants will be important in making higher education more accessible to students.
The minimum GPA to enter a CSU is 2.5, and the minimum GPA to enter a UC is 3, so lowering the minimum GPA to 2.0 means anyone with scores high enough to enter a CSU or UC will be eligible for a scholarship.
âMaking higher education more accessible to students is a good idea,â said Luxford. “You never know what will happen when the students [get to college]. They could do very well, even though they had struggled in high school, âsaid Luxford.