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Bill Cirone: Cal Grants Help Lower- and Middle-Income Families

Deadline is approaching for applications for educational funding that has aided thousands.

For a great many students in California there has sadly been very little incentive to do well in school.

Bill Cirone
Bill Cirone
Many of these students come from low- and middle-income families with no realistic capabilities of affording higher education. These students know from a young age that they will have to work to support themselves or contribute to the family as soon as they are able.

Although some of these students still summon the inner motivation to study hard and do well in school, many others are handicapped by this motivation barrier. It’s easy to see why the typical stresses and distractions of adolescents can loom larger for those who see no promise of any academic advancement in the future.

More than 40 years ago, California set a goal of providing access to higher education for low- and middle-income students. That goal became a reality with the passage of funding for Cal Grants. These are cash awards for college aid.

The deadline for application this year is March 2.

Cal Grant A provides full tuition and fees at a University of California or California State University campus, or $9,700 per year toward tuition at a private university. These funds are provided to high school graduates with a 3.0 (B) or higher grade-point average whose maximum income ranges from $28,000 for recipients who are independent to $88,300 for students from a family of six or more.

Cal Grant B provides $1,551, enough money for fees, books, and some living expenses at a community college, or tuition at a CSU campus. Cal Grant B students must have a 2.0 (C) or higher grade-point average with a maximum income of $40,200 for a family of four.

Cal Grant C awards help pay for tuition and training costs at occupational or career colleges. This $576 award is for books, tools and equipment. An additional $2,592 may also be awarded for tuition at a school other than a California Community College. To qualify, students must enroll in a vocational program that is at least four months long at a California community college, private college or a vocational school. Funding is available for up to two years, depending on the length of the program.

Cal Grant B Competitive Awards are for students with a minimum 2.0 GPA who are from disadvantaged and low-income families. These awards can be used for tuition, fees and access costs at qualifying schools whose programs are at least one year in length. A Cal Grant B Competitive Award can only be used for access costs in the first year, including living expenses, transportation, supplies and books. Beginning with the second year, the Cal Grant B Competitive Award can be used to help pay tuition and fees at public or private four-year colleges or other qualifying schools.

It’s clear that the availability of these grants has had the potential to change lives. It provides students with the motivation to focus even harder on their studies. If students do their part and earn good grades, money will no longer be a barrier to higher education.

This has been a landmark accomplishment and it has spurred many students to work hard in school and fulfill their family’s dreams and their own potential.

With all these programs in place, the state has made a strong commitment to higher education and accessibility for students. We will all reap the benefits of an educated workforce and an educated consumer base that can attain the job skills to earn the money to afford the goods and services produced by our economy. Truly these grants are a win-win situation for all.

Click here for more Information about the grants.

Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.

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