College students receiving Cal Grants, a financial aid system for thousands in California, may be at risk as Gov. Jerry Brown looks to tie the program to the Pell Grant in his revised budget plan.
Final approval of the plan will depend on the State Legislature’s budget, due Friday.
Under Brown’s plan, if a student qualifies for half of the maximum federal award, they would qualify for only half of the maximum Cal Grant award. Students who receive the full Pell Grant would receive the full Cal Grant.
Students who currently qualify for the Cal Grant would not be affected by this revision. It would affect freshmen starting in fall 2013.
“Cal Grants are GPA oriented and have a lower family income requirement,” said Stephanie Thara, web communications specialist of the CSU Chancellor’s Office. “The Pell Grant is family oriented and takes into account various factors like family size, income and assets.”
The amount a student receives from Federal Pell Grants, which provide funding to low-income undergraduate students, is dependent on the student’s expected family contribution, the cost of attendance, the student’s enrollment, and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less.
With its low income threshold, Cal Grants consist of maintaining a minimum grade point average, family income and asset requirements to qualify.
Pell Grants have a higher income threshold compared to Cal Grants. With this new budget revision, students who are unable to qualify for a federal Pell Grant would not be eligible for a Cal Grant.
“That’s upsetting to hear even though it won’t directly affect me,” said CSUN student Camille Williams. “Some people rely fully on financial aid and if that were to happen, students could be facing serious things like dropping out.”
Williams, 19, is a sophomore social welfare major who is going into her third year on financial aid and receives both the federal Pell Grant and Cal Grant.
Independent since the age of 17, Williams relies solely on her financial aid to help pay for school, rent and other costs of living.
“Luckily I qualify for both grants,” said Williams. “The thought of not getting a Cal Grant because I can’t qualify for a Pell Grant would upset me and would seriously make me rethink if I should even go to college.”
Brandon Alford, a junior graphic design and business major, currently relies on both Pell and Cal Grants to help pay for tuition.
“When I first came to CSUN I didn’t get any financial aid,” said Alford. “It got so bad to the point that I ended up dropping out of CSUN because I couldn’t pay for it.”
The maximum Pell grant for the 2011-12 award year was $5,550. For Cal Grants, up to $5,472 in fees are covered for the Cal State system.
According to the CSUN financial aid and scholarship department 2011 Annual Report, 52 percent of total awards granted were comprised of grants. In addition, 17,226 students receive grants.