OPINION: Cal Grant requires aid increase

By Miguel Barragan

California Community Colleges should expand the Cal Grant program that gives to more than 300,000 students a year.

The California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors voted to formally ask the next Legislature and governor to expand the Cal Grant in their 2019-2020 Budget and Legislative Request published in September.

Similarly, the Student Aid Commission, which is in charge of administering aid to students, voted to increase the amount of Cal Grant aid community college students could receive from $1,672 to $3,000 per academic year for 2019-2020.

The proposal requires approval from both lawmakers and the governor to pass.

According to the 2019-2020 Budget and Legislative Request, the proposal would require an additional cost of $1.5 billion on top of the $2 billion that are funded annually to the program.

For community college students, the current Cal Grant cap of $1,672 per year is supposed to cover living expenses and school supplies.

The cost of living in California, however, is so high that $1,672 isn’t enough for students to make it in school.

Research from The Institute for College Access and Success found that going to community college in California can be more expensive than going to a four-year university in the very same state.

This is because four-year universities, such as the Universities of California and California State Universities, give out larger Cal Grants, in addition to other financial aid, which help cover the cost of living expenses, supplies and tuition.

The maximum award Cal Grant offered in 2017-2018 for University of California students was $12,630. For California State University students, it was $5,742.

Raising the cap to $3,000 would be a good move for California Community Colleges.

Students receiving more money means they won’t need to overwork to help pay for school.

Students may decide to work part-time, instead of full-time, if they feel they have enough money.

This would help students complete their degrees quicker by providing more time to focus on school work.

Money is time in this case.

Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside, chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, said in an Edsource article, “We know that tuition is only a portion of the cost students face when attending college and I believe we should expand use of Cal Grant to also cover living expenses and transportation to help lighten the burden students face.”

Medina is right about the need for Cal Grant to expand its coverage, because he recognizes the costs students face.

The eligibility requirements for Cal Grants should also be changed.

The current system is unfair because it favors recent high school graduates.

Those that enroll in community college within a year of graduating high school are given priority in the program over those who do so more than a year after graduating high school.

Competitive grants are offered to those that enroll in community college years after graduating high school.

According to Edsource, however, only 25,750 new competitive grants are funded each year despite more than 300,000 eligible students applying for them.

This is unfair to low-income adults that have long graduated high school and are looking to further their education.

Cal Grants should expand to include those that fall under this category of students.

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