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Davis

Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

Four assembly bills drafted to modify Cal Grant Program

On April 9, the Committee on Higher Education passed four Assembly Bills (AB) that aim to expand and improve the Cal Grants program — AB 1285, 1287, 1364 and 1241.

After a conference with The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), University of California Student Association (UCSA) president Raquel Morales collaborated with others in order to co-sponsor the bills.

“I think that all four bills aim to address current issues with the program. In doing so, we hope to expand the program both through the amount of the awards and the number of qualified recipients,” Morales said.

Assemblymember Paul Fong authored AB 1285, which would modify the Cal Grant B award. Cal Grant B funds are awarded to low-income students as a tuition, fee and living aid. First-year students are limited to using Cal Grant B awards for living expenses and school supplies. When students are granted the Cal Grant B award beyond their first year, the restriction is lifted and they are able to use the money to pay for tuition and fees. AB 1285 would modify Cal Grants by allowing all students to utilize Cal Grant B awards to pay for tuition and fees.

Morales said that she would be disappointed to see AB 1285 fail.

“When the program was first created, low-income students were expected to attend a community college and then transfer to a four-year institution,” she said. “As a low-income student, it is disappointing to see that the state has failed to recognize an increase of low-income students going straight to a four-year university. I hope our legislators recognize this fault within the program by supporting AB 1285.”

AB 1287 aims to remove requirements currently in place to renew Cal Grants and was authored by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva. Currently, students must provide evidence annually that they meet the financial requirements for Cal Grant eligibility. However, this requirement was nonexistent before 2011, when students were obligated to provide financial eligibility only when they initially applied for Cal Grants.

This renewal requirement has resulted in the loss of 20,000 previously-eligible Cal Grants recipients, according to a press release by James May regarding AB 1287. Of these affected 20,000 students, 1,200 students have had an increase in their income of less than $1,000. AB 1287 would ensure that eligible students continue receiving Cal Grants.

“Students can now conceivably lose as much as $13,000 in the middle of their college attendance if the student or their parents receive just a small bump in their income,” Quirk-Silva said in a news release. “This is having a devastating effect on students and potentially forcing many of them who still have a financial need to leave school for lack of funds or placing middle and low income families in dire financial straits.”

AB 1364, which focuses on increasing the minimum amount of the Cal Grant B award. Existing law establishes the maximum annual Cal Grant B award for access costs to $1,551; AB 1364 — authored Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting — would increase it to a minimum of $5,900. Access costs refer to living expenses, books and supplies.

The $5,900 figure is derived from the amount that Cal Grant B students would have received if it was adjusted to match the effects of inflation. AB 1364 would ensure that the Cal Grant award is annually adjusted to keep up with the current state of the economy, beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.

Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber authored AB 1241, which seeks to extend the Cal Grant period of eligibility by three years. Existing law only qualifies high school graduates for Cal Grants the year they graduate or the year after they graduate.AB 1241 would extend this period of eligibility so that students may apply for the Cal Grant Entitlement Program for four years after their high school graduation.

Moreover, the bill would permit students to re-apply for the Entitlement Program if they missed the March 2 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) deadline.

“I think that all four bills aim to address current issues with the program. In doing so, we hope to expand the program both through the amount of the awards and the number of qualified recipients,” Morales said.

UCSA has sponsored AB 1285, 1287, 1364 and 1241 which are currently all in the Committee on Appropriations. The Committee on Appropriations serves to determine and allocate funds for bills. In order for the bills to be enacted into law they must first pass appropriations and then the California State Senate, according to Morales.
The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) is a commission that aims to make education beyond high school financially accessible to all Californians.

“While our Commission has not taken an official position on any of these bills, we are certainly in support of any legislation that helps low and middle-income students gain access to quality higher education,” said Patti Colston, communications manager of the Office of the Executive Director for CSAC.
According to Colston, there will be a commission meeting on April 25 and 26 during which a position on the bills will be adopted.

“[Cal Grants need] more than just the 5 percent cut that Governor [Jerry] Brown did last year. We need to make sure that this program takes into consideration inflation and that it serves all of the students that are qualified,” Morales said.

LILIANA NAVA OCHOA can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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