California College Grants — Options and How to Apply

 June 9, 2020
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california grants

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With California college grants, the Golden State gives students many opportunities to pay for their tuition.

In fact, California is one of three states that provides more grant aid to its low-income residents than the state’s federal Pell Grant expenditure, according to a 2017 study from the University of California, Berkeley. The average student with financial need in California receives over $4,000 per year.

Here’s how students can access this gold mine of California state grants.

How to apply for California college grants
7 California college grants available today
Use California state grants to help pay for college

How to apply for California college grants

Unlike many scholarships, grants are typically need-based. To prove your financial need for California state grants, also called Cal Grants, you’ll need to complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the state’s Dream Act Application (DAA) by March 2 of each year.

The DAA allows noncitizens, including some undocumented immigrants, to apply for California state grants and other financial aid, and toqualify for in-state tuition rates.

In addition to filing the FAFSA or DAA annually, you’ll also need to submit your high school or community college transcripts via the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) no later than its March 2 deadline. Although they’re need-based, most California school grants do require you to maintain a certain GPA.

If you’re a California Community College student and you miss the March 2 deadline, you can submit your transcripts by Sept. 2. This allows you to be considered for a September Cal Grant, though there are only a limited number available.

Other eligibility rules for citizens and noncitizens applying for California state student aid include:

  • You have resided in California for at least a year
  • You’re attending an eligible California college or university
  • You do not yet hold a bachelor’s or professional degree.
  • You haven’t defaulted on a student loan.
  • You haven’t been jailed.

You also need to enroll at least half time at an eligible school. Make sure to check the list of qualifying schools provided by the CSAC.

Eligibility for grants for California students are subject to a family income and assets ceiling:

Find out more below about California state education grants you can apply for.

7 California college grants available today

At $120 per credit, California’s public colleges are among the nation’s cheapest places to study — and California school grants could drop your costs even further.

For the 2019-2020 academic year, California state grant recipients could receive up to:

  • $14,242 at a University of California campus
  • $7,414 at a California State University campus
  • $1,672 at a California community college
  • $10,756 at independent colleges

Here are full details on the following California state grant programs:

1. Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award
2. Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award
3. Cal Grant Competitive Awards
4. California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth
5. Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program
6. The Golden State Teacher Grant Program
7. Middle Class Scholarship

1. Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award

California college grants in this High School Entitlement Award category are guaranteed to high school seniors and recent high school graduates who meet the requirements. Depending on your income level, you could be eligible for one of these multi-year grants:

  • Cal Grant A: Low- to middle-income students could use this award for tuition at a two- or four-year school in the state. You need to maintain a 3.0 GPA to remain eligible.
  • Cal Grant B: Low-income students enrolled in an eligible program can apply for this grant. You need at least a 2.0 GPA to receive it. The grant includes an annual award of $1,672 for living expenses. Plus, as of July 2018, this grant was expanded to offer foster youth up to eight years of undergraduate academic support.

There’s also a Cal Grant C award for students pursuing a trade school education — no GPA required. You could receive up to $2,462 for tuition and fees at a private for- or nonprofit institution (as well as an additional $547 for books, tools or equipment, or as much as $1,094 to attend a California community college.

2. Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award

This California school grant is for any community college student transferring to a four-year school in the state. Your income level is the primary factor affecting which grant type you could receive, either a Cal Grant A or Cal Grant B. (Can you get both a Cal Grant A and B? Unfortunately, no — it’s one or the other.)

Cal Grant B recipients receive an additional award for living expenses that go beyond tuition and academic fees.

Regardless of your income level, you’ll need to maintain a 2.4 GPA to be eligible for the Transfer Entitlement Award. The average Transfer Entitlement Award recipient in the 2019-2020 academic year had a 3.16 GPA, according to the CSAC.

3. Cal Grant Competitive Awards

For students who aren’t eligible to receive the awards listed above, you could earn grants via the Cal Grant Competitive Awards.

When you apply for one of these California state grants, your application is scored based on information in your FAFSA, such as the education level of your parents. It’s also dependent on your GPA.

You could score one of the following grant types:

  • Cal Grant A: Be a low- to middle-income student and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Cal Grant B: Be a low-income student and sport at least a 2.0 GPA. This grant comes with an annual award ($1,672) for living expenses.

4. California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth

If you are or were in California’s foster care system, you could receive up to $5,000 annually for college or career or technical training. All that’s required is that you spent a single day in foster care between the ages of 16 and 18. You also need to be younger than 26 at the time of your application.

Unlike other California college grants, you could use the $5,000 at schools in other states. You could also apply the funds to non-tuition expenses, such as transportation and rent or to afford childcare.

To be considered, complete the FAFSA or DAA application, then fill out the Chafee Grant application online.

5. Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program

If you’re the spouse or child of a California law enforcement officer or employee who was completely disabled or killed while on duty, you could receive significant financial aid for college.

The Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program award from $100 to $12,192 for up to four years, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

6. The Golden State Teacher Grant Program

The Golden State Teacher Grant Program awards one-time awards of up to $20,000 to 4,400 California students. These aspiring educators must agree to teach certain subjects in high-need areas for four years.

To be eligible for this teacher-specific California college grant, students must be enrolled on or after Jan. 1, 2020 in a qualifying education program.

7. Middle Class Scholarship

Although a scholarship by name, this grant-like opportunity is income-based. Students with a family income and assets below $184,000 in value may qualify for financial aid to a California public college or university. How much aid exactly? Between 10% and 40% of tuition and fees.

The renewable Middle Class Scholarship is awarded in August before each school year. In addition, note that it’s a no-GPA-required scholarship.

Use California state grants to help pay for college

If you live and plan to attend college in California, you’re in luck — the state has one of the country’s more generous grant offerings.

In fact, you’re nearly guaranteed to receive a California college grant if you meet income requirements. But if you don’t, you could still rack up grant aid via the state’s Competitive Awards. Your high school or community college GPA could mean the difference between winning and losing one of those.

And if you still fall short of your school’s cost of attendance despite earning California school grants, don’t worry. There are other ways to pay for college, including:

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