More Cal Grants Awarded After Error is Resolved

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Because of a technical glitch in the financial aid application process, the Cal Grants program discovered nearly 900 more qualified students and awarded them competitive grants last week.

After re-tabulating statistics, the California Student Aid Commission realized some educational institutions had accidentally sent corrupt electronic files to their system, resulting in over 300,000 applicants' grade point averages being left uncalculated.

"When they re-ran the numbers, they had these additional students," said UC Berkeley Director of Financial Aid Cheryl Resh.

The technical glitch is the latest in a series of administrative missteps this year. The commission had created the system by which counselors could electronically upload student grade point averages to its database in order to lessen the confusion in application requirements. Because of the lack of publicity of the competitive grant program, many students had been unaware their schools were required to verify the students' grade point averages for the aid commission.

Of the 871 awards newly granted, approximately 300 were given to UC Berkeley students as competitive grants, said Resh.

Competitive awards are a type of Cal Grant geared toward applicants who have been out of high school for more than 18 months. The additional competitive grants were awarded to transfer students and adults who met financial aid requirements and were already accepted to a college or university.

Last month, 11,600 of the 71,000 eligible applicants were awarded competitive grants.

"Since those GPAs were not included in the original run, we wanted to be fair," said commission Spokesperson Carole Solov. "So any student who qualified for a Cal Grant got one."

Other state officials said distributing the grants to qualified applicants was the ultimate solution.

"We believe that this mix-up the California Student Aid Commission had will be resolved through administrative means," said Paul Mitchell, chief consultant to the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. "By getting out those awards, it fixes the problem."

Despite the commission's technical error, Resh said she was pleased with the committee's actions.

"We thought that the California Student Aid Commission did a great job being proactive," she said. "They worked all weekend to make sure that whatever could be done would be done to make sure that students got their awards."

As a result of the glitch, more grants were awarded than had been expected, but Mitchell said he does not expect the committee to exceed its annual budget nor pose additional costs to taxpayers.

Through the usual attrition, such as students going to college out-of-state or not going to a four-year institution, some Cal Grant winners became ineligible, he noted.

The commission has awarded roughly half of this year's competitive grants and will award more in the second phase. They expect to surpass the 22,500 grant limit, but have money left over from last year to fund additional awards, Solov said.

"Last year, some of the competitive awards were not used by students," Solov said. "This year we are awarding extra."

The number of students receiving grants is still expected to fluctuate, however, as some no longer meet the financial requirements or will no longer attend college, Resh said.

To be eligible for Cal Grant competitive awards, applicants must meet certain financial and academic requirements. To verify their eligibility, applicants are required to submit Free Applications for Federal Student Aid and have their schools verify their grade point averages.


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