(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, simplifying the Cal Grant application process in order to help thousands of high performing students from low income families receive financial aid for college.
"Today's action restores fairness to our state's largest financial aid program," said Ting."These reforms make it easier for students to apply for aid by streamlining the application process. All qualified students must get the aid and the education they deserve. By making the program operate more efficiently, we can prevent thousands of students from falling through the cracks and take pride in positioning them for greater success in life."
Assembly Bill (AB) 2160 requires all public high schools to electronically submit grade point average (GPA) information for all graduating 12th grade students to the California Student Aid Commission. This will help approximately 4,000 more students to receive a Cal Grant award offer and 2,800 more students to use a Cal Grant in pursuit of their higher education goals. The bill also establishes privacy protocols to protect student information and, if desired, gives parents a chance to take their children out of the automated system.
After missing the application deadline, failure to submit a GPA is the second most common reason why students fail to receive a Cal Grant. Schools are inconsistent in communicating the GPA requirement to students and there is no standard for submitting the information. Historically, it has been done by high school counselors who fill out a form. At 945 to 1, our counselor to student ratio is the nation's worst and 29 percent of school districts have no counselors at all.
These variables introduce bias into the application process. Some schools have overcome it by submitting all student GPAs electronically through a secure online portal created by CSAC. Research conducted by The Education Trust-West, sponsor of AB 2160, found that schools piloting this method saw a 15 percent bump overall in the number of completed Cal Grant applications last year when compared to schools that do not submit student GPAs electronically.
"We are grateful to Governor Brown for signing AB 2160, and to Assembly Member Ting for his efforts to eliminate a barrier to financial aid for California students," said Valerie Cuevas, Interim Executive Director of The Education Trust-West."This legislation will help thousands of students across our state and will help level the playing field for our highest-need students."
GPA verification, along with a completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid form or Dream Act Application, is required for students to be considered for a Cal Grant. Cal Grants can be used by students at community colleges, state and private universities, and technical schools. Student awards peak at $12,192 but average $4,650. They can be used for tuition, room and board, books, and pencils.
AB 2160 passed the Assembly 75-0 after a 31-2 vote in the Senate. Further information available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.