Nearly 200,000 more California college students could receive state assistance for tuition and living expenses under one of the largest expansions of the Cal Grant financial aid program ever proposed, according to details released Tuesday.
The plan, unveiled by the California Student Aid Commission and two legislators, would eliminate some current requirements for the main Cal Grant award that favor younger students within a year out of high school who have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Instead, it would broaden access to older students and others not currently eligible.
It would also simplify the program and tie eligibility to the federal Pell Grant, which better accounts for a student’s total cost of attendance, which includes housing, transportation and other expenses. Although the Cal Grant focuses on tuition and fees, it is one of the nation’s most generous college financial aid programs, providing annual support to more than 500,000 California students.
Hundreds of thousands of students attending California’s colleges and universities may soon become newly eligible for financial aid awards if lawmakers have their way with a proposal to reform how the state distributes that aid.
Assembly Bill 1456, new legislation introduced late Friday by the chair of the state Assembly’s higher education committee, would make it easier for low-income students to receive Cal Grants, the main source of state-funded financial aid available to students in California. The bill proposes to change the rules to target more of the state’s neediest students.
Many middle-income students would be ineligible for Cal Grants under the proposal but could still receive the Middle Class Scholarship, which currently covers up to 40% of tuition and fees at University of California and California State University.
Among California’s many distinctions, the state stands out for the minimal requirements it imposes for high-school graduation, among the most lenient in the United States. California is one of a handful of states that require just three years of English and two years of math to earn a high-school diploma. The last revision to the list of 13 required courses was back in 2003, when state lawmakers added Algebra I.
Now, educators and elected officials are engaged in a prolonged pedagogical, cultural, and political debate to amend those requirements again. In a move more in line with its trendsetting reputation, California is on the verge of becoming the first state in the country to require that every high-school student take an ethnic studies class to graduate.
SACRAMENTO — Assemblymembers Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Chair of Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 on Education Finance, and Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, introduced legislation to reform the nation’s largest state financial aid program. AB 1456 will modernize the Cal Grant program to match the financial challenges students face.
Legislation to make permanent and expand a groundbreaking pilot program allowing 15 California community colleges — including San Diego Mesa College — to offer bachelor’s degrees in critical workforce fields has been introduced in the state Assembly.
Assembly Bill 927, sponsored by Chair of the Committee on Higher Education Jose Medina (D-Riverside), would eliminate the 2026 sunset date on existing baccalaureate pilot programs in workforce fields where there is high demand and unmet need and allow for the number of such programs to grow throughout the state. Nearly identical legislation, SB 874, was introduced last year by now termed-out state Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), but was set aside when the lawmakers were forced to focus solely on matters pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget crisis. Last year’s legislation earned widespread support in the legislature and was backed by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.