California assembly bill looks to increase Cal Grant access and funding - Daily Bruin by Armando Carrillo

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A California assembly bill, if passed, would expand the Cal Grant system to cover nontuition expenses, increase access and create a Summer Cal Grant program.

Assembly Bill 1314 would phase in reforms to the Cal Grant programs to further expand and simplify them. AB 1314 was passed by the California state assembly on May 24 and is currently going through the legislative process in the California Senate.

Cal Grant Programs provide state-based financial aid to students in a postsecondary education program, including vocational training. Students must meet certain GPA and financial requirements in addition to general eligibility requirements to qualify for a Cal Grant.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, who represents the district containing the UC Riverside campus and co-authored the bill, said AB 1314 would increase funding for financial aid and potentially address rising student debt.

Undergraduate students in the United States graduated with an average student debt of $28,650 in 2017, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. This is up from $12,750 in 1996.

Medina added AB 1314 addresses the total cost of attending college by covering tuition fees and nontuition costs, which the current Cal Grant system doesn’t adequately cover.

Eligibility for the Cal Grant, under the new bill, would no longer be based on GPA, age and years out of high school. Medina said this would allow nontraditional students, who don’t go to college right after high school, to have access to financial aid.

“Students today are not the same traditional students that they were 20 years ago,” Medina said. “We see more working adults, working parents, and these would be individuals who may not qualify for Cal Grants today (but) are going to school and would benefit from Cal Grants.”

Under the current Cal Grant system, students who qualify for Cal Grant A or Cal Grant B are guaranteed a Cal Grant if they meet requirements for the Cal Grant Entitlement Program, according to the California Student Aid Commission, the state agency in charge of administering financial aid.