By Vivian Ramirez
Many East Los Angeles College students who have received Cal Grants in the past may no longer qualify for them due to proposed higher grade point average requirements.
California Governor Jerry Brown released his proposal earlier this year in the 2012-13 state budget plan that will save the state an estimated $372 million throughout the year. The changes affecting Cal Grant A will raise the required GPA from 3.0 to 3.25. The changes affecting Cal Grant B will raise the minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.75.
ELAC students will be most affected by Cal Grant B, which is often awarded to community college students and covers living expenses, transportation, supplies and books. According to The Institute for College Access and Success, 58 percent of California community college students qualify for Cal Grants.
A Cal Grant B recipient attending a community college may be awarded up to $1,551 per academic year. According to the California Student Aid Commission, this may be an invaluable resource for students who plan on transferring to a four-year institution.
Cal Grant A is awarded only to students attending University of California and California State University schools, and can be used to pay for tuition and other fees. However, students at community colleges may qualify for the award and have it placed on hold until the time of transfer to a four-year institution.
The proposal was not received well by legislators, stating that the changes will harm low-income, community college students. With the per-unit cost set to rise from the current $26 to $36 in the fall semester, students are already facing a steady increase in educational costs. The per-unit cost is scheduled to rise yet again, to $46 by Summer 2012.
However, Brown’s plan states that in addition to saving money, the restrictions will limit the state’s financial aid resources to students who are more likely to transfer and receive a degree. If the plan is successful, one-third of recipients will be cut off — roughly 26,600 students statewide.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report in response to the Governor’s proposal, stating that the changes can lower college attendance and completion rates. “I think people will stop coming to school,” said Jarrod Gray, a sophomore and defensive lineman on ELAC’s football team. “There would be less people in school and more people in debt, taking out loans.”
Gray, who lives on his own, relies on his Cal Grant to pay for books, gas, and additional school expenses. “If it passes, I would study harder or I would probably take less classes. I’d become a part-time student,” said Gray.
Cal Grants are primarily available for students based on financial need with some merit requirements. However, if the GPA requirement is raised drastically, Cal Grants will shift to being more merit-based, which can harm many of the low-income students they are supposed to help.
Some legislators argue that Cal Grants might be refocused to help students who are better-prepared for college. If the plan passes, Financial Aid Office supervisor Gavino Herrera admits it will affect many ELAC students. “High school is where they will have to take care of business,” said Herrera.
Herrera said the changes will impact students from local high schools, especially since many of them are taking remedial courses. Other students find the adjustment to GPA very reasonable. Jonathan Villalobos, part-time ELAC student and senior at California State University, Los Angeles is also a Cal Grant recipient.
“It’s turning more into merit-based, which is okay because I feel there are a lot of students who abuse the Cal Grant system. They’re taking classes that they don’t need to on the government’s money. If you want to do well, you will do well and it is going to show based on GPA,” said Villalobos.
With the Cal Grant award deadline less than one month away, the subject has become a topic of much discussion to be revisited during voting season.