Improving Cal Grants

Reforming Crucial Access Program for Higher Education

by Brian Leubitz

CalGrants, in their current form, have been around since the beginning of the last decade. So hopefully in that time we have learned a thing or two about works and what needs work. Back in 2004, the California Student Aid Commission looked at the new program and their report included some interesting numbers at the time:

In 2001-02, 61 percent of the Competitive Cal Grant recipients were under 25 years of age – a younger than anticipated recipient pool. After consultation with segmental representatives, the Commission adjusted the selection criteria to allow extra consideration for older, late-entry students. In 2002-03, 35 percent of the Competitive Cal Grant recipients were under 25 years of age.

In 2001-02, the majority (81 percent) of the Competitive Cal Grant recipients were from  families with annual incomes below $24,000. In 2002-03, 84 percent of new recipients had incomes under $24,000.

CalGrants were designed to facilitate access to higher education for older students as well as lower income students. And when available, they serve that purpose. However], considering the big cuts to the program over the last few years, the goals for the program may have been ratcheted down a notch. But, that is not to say that we can’t improve the system. Over the next week, a group of legislators will be highlighting their reform proposals to the system. Here are a few of those highlights:

  • AB 1241 – Weber (D-San Diego) – Extending Eligibility to 4 years after high school for Cal Grant A & B
  • AB 1285 – Fong (D-San Jose) – Increasing eligibility for first-year students
  • AB 1287 – Quirk-Silva (D-Orange County) – Decreasing paperwork for renewing Cal Grants
  • AB 1364 – Ting (D-SF) – Sets minimum Cal Grant B at $5900 for 2014-2015, increasing by California CPI
  • These changes all go a step towards making higher education more attainable, but ultimately, we need to increase funding to CalGrants to widen the breadth of the program’s success. Beyond our natural resources, businesses come to California for the extraordinary skilled labor that we have, much of that thanks to our higher ed system. Investing in our labor force means a stronger economy in the future.