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Last Chance for California College Grant

New America Media, News Report, Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen Posted: Feb 24, 2010

California students have less than a week left to send in their applications for the Cal Grant, the states most generous and most accessible financial aid program.

The Cal Grant is not a loan. So the student doesnt need to pay it back. It can provide up to $9,708 a year for tuition and fees for a four-year school and up to $1,551 for community college. Students enrolling in special technical programs can also receive up to $2,692.

It can cover the entire cost of college in the University of California and California State University systems.

The deadline for applying for a Cal Grant is March 2.
How to Get Financial Aid

The Web site, I Can Afford College, has a great list of resources on the basics of financial aid.

The state has a useful factsheet explaining whos eligible for a Cal Grant.

The federal Department of Education runs the Pell Grant program which can provide up to $5,500 for college on top of a Cal Grant

Who Can Get a Cal Grant?

Cal Grants are available to every high school student with a grade point average of at least 3.0 (for a four-year school) or 2.0 (for community college) and household income of less than $80,000 for a family of four though the size of the scholarship provided will depend on the student's financial need.

Students who meet the criteria are entitled to receive a Cal Grant, even if they have a criminal record (there is only one exception to this: if the student was convicted for possession or sale of illegal drugs while he or she was receiving financial aid.

The Cal Grant is available for every year of a students college education, but students have to reapply each year.

Non-citizen, immigrant students are also eligible for Cal Grants if they have a green card and have been a California resident for at least one year. Students who are not U.S. citizens are also eligible for federal financial aid, including Pell Grants which can provide up to $5,500 more for school on top of a Cal Grant.

Cal Grant recipients are extremely diverse. More than 600,000 ethnic minority community college students in California receive financial aid, including roughly 130,000 African American students, 100,000 Asian students, 25,000 Filipino students, and 317,000 Latino students.

How Do I Apply?

To apply for a Cal Grant, high school seniors and continuing college students have to get their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form completed, and have their schools submit their G.P.A.

The application is done online, and the feds have done a great job of improving it this year. If they have their tax info, its almost foolproof, says John Muskavitch, director of financial aid at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, Calif.

To receive entitlement Cal Grant funds to attend a four-year college, applicants must meet the March 2 deadline. For students looking to attend community college, its still possible to get a Cal Grant through September 2.

The most important thing is to apply, and to fill out the FAFSA even if you cant meet the March 2 deadline," says Timothy P. Bonnel, student financial assistance programs coordinator with the California Community College System Office.

The FAFSA is not just for Cal and Pell grants, says Bonnel, its for all types of aid at all institutions. Some colleges may require additional forms, but virtually all colleges and federal aid programs require the FAFSA, for state, institutional and federal aid.

Students interested in financial aid for a four-year college who missed the March 2 deadline can still apply for the federal Pell Grant, which is a year-round grant. 

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