State Campaign Set on Drawing Students to Financial Aid





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Only two-thirds of the money available to Cal Grant recipients was spent last year on the college financial aid program, prompting Gov. Gray Davis to initiate a campaign informing college-bound students about the scholarships.

Declaring February "Cal Grant Month," Davis announced on Sunday a program of workshops to help students apply for financial aid. The workshops are called "College Goal Sunday" and will be staffed by volunteers.

Though a record-breaking number of grants were handed out last year-roughly 10,000 more than usual-some available money went to no one.

Carol Solov, spokesperson for the California Student Aid Commission, said that with the help of the promotional campaign, they expect to top last year's numbers and lower the amount of unawarded dollars.

"Before, there was a competitive application process," Solov said, "Now the state will fund any grant for all students that qualify. This is free money for college. It's guaranteed."

Students of middle- and low-income households who have a B average and want to attend UC, CSU or private universities in California are eligible to receive a grant of up to $9,700.

Ann Bancroft, spokesperson for the California secretary of education, said the workshops will dispel myths surrounding the financial aid process.

"There are probably myths out there that there's less financial aid than there really is," Bancroft said, "Some think that it's very difficult to apply for or get scholarships, and that is just not true. Although it is a complicated form, it's not rocket science."

The California Student Aid Commission, under the Cal Grant program, is expected to distribute over $590 million to college students during the 2002-03 school year.

Bancroft said there is a "remarkable" amount of financial aid available for students this year as compared to last, and that "we need to get the word out."

UC Berkeley freshman Tyler Shores said the workshops would provide much-needed personal assistance.

"The thing is with Berkeley, and probably a lot of other UCs, is that it's complicated with all the hassles," Shores said. "You have to go to places like Sproul Hall and wait in lines for half a day just to get your questions answered. Interaction with people who could tell us what we are doing would be helpful."

Students will have the opportunity to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and get GPA verification at the workshops, which will be held in over 300 locations statewide.

In addition, students who attend and fill out an evaluation of the event will be entered to win one of 10 $1,000 scholarships made available by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

The campaign also includes $1.1 million for English and Spanish radio advertisements, as well as an Internet campaign that will encourage students to meet the financial aid deadline.

"We're very excited and putting forth various promotional advertisements for the program-radio and print media, several newspapers, ethnic newspapers in particular," Solov said. "We are looking forward to a very successful year."

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