California Students Might Get More Aid

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California college students may soon have access to the largest state-supported financial aid program in the nation, pending a state legislature vote expanded in the coming days.

Gov. Gray Davis and legislative leaders have reached an agreement on a proposal that would expand the Cal Grant program and help more high school graduates afford to attend college. The proposal guarantees that one-third of the state's high school graduates will receive financial aid under the program.

The agreement would triple the funding level for the Cal Grant program from its budget when Davis took office.

Cal Grant A scholarships are awarded to financially needy students with a 3.0 grade point average to help them attend public or private four-year institutions.

In addition, the Cal Grant B scholarship offers students with a GPA of 2.0 a chance to attend community colleges, California State University, UC campuses or a private four-year college.

Under the new plan, UC Berkeley students will most likely see an increase in Cal Grant B scholarships, said Richard Black, the campus' director of financial aid.

"Cal Grant A's are rationed based on GPAs, and most Berkeley students already have above the required grade average," he said.

While the extended program will create some additional paperwork for the financial aid office, Black said his department is pleased with the proposal.

"It will reduce the amount students have to earn or borrow and that is something that we really really take a lot of satisfaction in,"he said. "Historically, the Cal Grant program has been one of the strongest in the nation, and we're fortunate to have it."

Cal Grant awards may be as much as full tuition at community colleges, California State University campuses and the UC, or $9,700 in tuition at private universities in California. Community college students can receive up to $1,550 to pay for books and living expenses.

If the legislation passes, the upgrade is scheduled to be fully implemented by 2006. The estimated cost of the expansion program is approximately $1.2 billion.

In addition to the normal Cal Grant program where students apply within one year of graduation, Davis has proposed 22,500 new grants be awarded to students who have returned to college or are entering for the first time as adults, several years after graduating from high school.

The proposed Cal Grant program is linked legislatively to the governor's proposal to award additional scholarships to students who score well on the Stanford 9 exam and math and science Advanced Placement exams through new evaluation programs.

The state Senate has already passed legislation creating two of the programs - the Governor's Scholars and Distinguished Mathematics and Science Scholars.


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