New law requires students to be notified about timely degree completion

New law requires students to be notified about timely degree completion

Photo Credits: JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

Students to receive financial aid for only four years

New legislation for the California state school systems directly impacts students receiving state financial aid. On Jan. 1, a new law was enacted which requires that students be notified about timely degree completion status while receiving financial aid because Cal Grants are limited to four academic years.

“AB 2248, authored by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, refers to notifying higher education students receiving financial aid about how many units must be taken per semester or quarter to graduate within four years and also to clarify to those students that Cal Grant is limited to four academic years,” said Kristen Timarche, the media relations officer for the California Student Aid Commission.

The California Student Aid Commission and institution of higher education must provide those who receive state financial aid further information on the known prerequisites in order to graduate. Many students are under the impression that 12 units are necessary to be considered a full-time student, but aren’t necessarily aware that an average of 15 units are mandatory to graduate within four years.

Something many students may be unaware of, however, is that financial aid, including Cal Grants, are limited to four academic years. This could potentially leave a fifth-year student in debt or unable to attain aid for the extra year necessary to complete their degree.

“Currently, there is a disconnect between the 120 units or 15 units per semester, necessary for graduation in four years and the commonly used definition of ‘full-time,’ which is 12 units per semester,” Timarche said. “The new law requires both the California Student Aid Commission and institutions of higher education to provide this notification to recipients of state financial aid to avoid expanding their financial aid before being graduated.”

On average, a University of California student will have a net impact of $80,000 for one additional year of attendance, while California State University students will have an impact of $70,000.

“The Commission supports providing students with as much information as possible at the earliest time so that they understand that if they don’t take at least 15 units per semester to graduate in four years, they may not have financial aid for their fifth or sixth year,” said Lupita Cortez Alcalá, the executive director of the California Student Aid Commission.

This new law will assist students who were uninformed about precisely how many units are needed to graduate within four years. It will also enforce postsecondary institutions notifying Cal Grant recipients on the steps needed to graduate within the time restraint.

“With an impacted major and being practically the millionth person on a waitlist for a science class, I always assumed a fifth-year would just be a given for me when it comes to NPB,” said Hannah Sjolund, a second-year neurobiology, physiology, and behavior major. “It was not until after I could barely manage 12 units per quarter that I realized I needed to step it up and take more [units] to graduate on time and not have to take out loans with my financial aid leaving me no support for an extra year.”

Written by: Lauren Tropio — city@theaggie.org