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Cal Grants would be harder to get under Brown's proposed budget

January 15, 2012 |  8:54 am

Cal Grants, the state-funded financial aid for California higher education students, could become much harder to obtain for new students under restrictions proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown as part of his 2012-2013 budget.

One of the most contentious of the restrictions would increase the minimum grade point average needed to qualify for the awards, which are a key part of the financial aid package for many students.

There are two types of grants under the program: 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 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.

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. If more of these students opted instead for public schools, state expenses could increase because California would pay more to subsidize them.

About 26,600 prospective UC, Cal State and community college students would be affected by the changes in grade point averages in the 2012-2013 academic year. 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. Many of the affected students could still qualify for federal aid.

Brown's budget faces revision in the spring, but at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, educators are concerned for the 600 seniors expected to graduate.

"The majority of our kids are on the cusp of 3.0 or 2.7," said acting head counselor Carlo Marquez. "Where are they going to get the money? Many are going to have to work, and the pattern is once they start working, they're offered more hours and they forget about school. It's tough at a time when we're trying to get them to see the big picture and continue their education."

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-- Carla Rivera

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