California College Grants — Best Options and How to Apply

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california grants

The Golden State gives college 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 Federal Pell Grant, according to a 2017 University of California, Berkeley study. The average student with financial need in California receives close to $5,000 per year.

Here’s how college students can access this honey pot of California grants.

How to apply for California grants

Unlike many scholarships, grants are typically need-based. To prove your financial need for California 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 Cal Grants, state financial aid, and qualify 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 March 2. Although they’re need-based, most California grants require you to maintain a certain GPA.

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

Other eligibility rules for citizens and noncitizens applying for California grants include:

  • You haven’t graduated from college yet.
  • 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 eligible schools provided by the CSAC.

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

4 California grants for college available today

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

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Cal Grant recipients could receive up to:

  • $12,630 at a University of California campus
  • $5,742 at a California State University campus
  • $9,084 at independent colleges

Here are the full details on California’s grant programs.

1. Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award

California grants in this 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 multiyear 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.

You can review income ceilings for the 2017-2018 school year here.

2. Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award

This California 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.

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. The average Transfer Entitlement Award recipient in the 2015-2016 academic year had a 3.11 GPA, according to the CSAC.

3. Cal Grant Competitive Awards

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

When you apply for one of these 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 three 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.
  • Cal Grant C: Be a low- to middle-income student and attend a certificate or associate’s degree program for a high-demand career. You could receive up to $2,462 for tuition and fees, plus as much as $1,904 to help save on textbooks and supplies.

Cal Grants A and B in the Competitive Awards category are for FAFSA filers only. Undocumented immigrants without a Social Security number who meet other requirements could complete the DAA to be eligible for Cal Grant C.

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 career or technical training or college. In fact, 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 22 at the time of your application.

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

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

Use California 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 guaranteed to receive a Cal 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 fall short of your school’s cost of attendance despite earning California grants, don’t worry. There are other ways to pay for college, including applying for scholarships, taking out federal student loans, and looking into private student loan options.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.