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New system allows more students to get college Cal Grants

For some high school seniors, applying to college is stressful enough. An added layer of having to search for their grade point average and Social Security number was enough for thousands not to bother seeking financial aid.

Now, Los Angeles Unified School District students can breathe a little easier.

A new system will allow the district to share required information with the California Student Aid Commission electronically. The deadline to submit the information, which includes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is March 2.

The system’s pilot run resulted in 2,000 more college-bound L.A. Unified students receiving state-funded Cal Grants in 2012 than in previous years.

The system “used to be pretty complicated and we missed a lot of kids,” said Stephen Williams, a college counselor at Eagle Rock High School.

Williams explained that parents of hopeful first-generation college students might not understand why the extra information is needed for financial aid.

“They don’t understand why they need to share their Social Security information and anything we can do to make the process simpler, we welcome it,” he said.

Under the previous system, students were responsible for calculating and providing their GPAs to the state. Schools also had to collect Social Security numbers from students to complete the application. Other districts in the state are also participating in the program.

Cynthia Lim, executive director of the district's office of data and accountability, said the district uploaded information for all 30,000 graduating seniors last year, reducing the burden on counselors, who were required to track the paperwork filled out by students.

“It’s a big help,” Williams said. “It lets us start focusing on juniors. The process was a time-suck. Worse than Facebook.”

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-- Dalina Castellanos

 
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