All About Cal Grants and Other CA Financial Aid

Paying for college can be challenging, but as a Californian student, you have several state-based financial aid programs available to help ease the burden. Remember that you will either need to submit the FAFSA or the California Dream Act application by March 2 in order to be considered for most types of financial aid. See our post, “Financial Aid 101”, to learn more about the process of applying for financial aid. Read on to find out more information about the Cal Grant, Middle Class Scholarship, Chafee Grant, and other financial aid opportunities in California. 

Cal Grant

Perhaps the most well-known financial aid program in California is the Cal Grant. The Cal Grant is a state-sponsored grant program available to eligible California students who attend participating colleges, universities, and technical schools in California. Some key facts about the Cal Grant program are:

  • The Cal Grant is gift aid and you do not need to pay it back
  • You need to meet certain financial, academic, and general requirements in order to be eligible for one of the Cal Grant awards
  • There are several types of Cal Grant awards, based on factors like when you are applying for financial aid, what type of college or institution you attend, and your income level. The following provides brief descriptions of the types of Cal Grant awards:
    • Cal Grant A or B High School Entitlement: For eligible current high school seniors and recent high school graduates
    • Cal Grant A or B Transfer Entitlement: For eligible students who plan to transfer directly from a California Community College to a participating four-year college or university
    • Competitive Cal Grant A or B: For eligible students who are not applying as a high school senior, within one year of high school graduation, or upon transfer from a California Community College to a four-year college or university
    • Cal Grant C: For eligible students who are pursuing an occupational or technical program
  • You do not need to figure out which Cal Grant you may qualify for on your own – you are automatically considered for the correct award based on the information you provide when applying.
  • The award amounts for the Cal Grant program depend on which award you have received and the type of institution you attend

Your FAFSA or California Dream Act application serves as your application for the Cal Grant program. Once you have submitted the appropriate financial aid application, you will need to create a WebGrants 4 Students account to access the next steps and secure your Cal Grant, if awarded. For more information about Webgrants, see our post, “After the FAFSA/Dream Act: Next Steps”.

Keep in mind that students who are current or former foster youth, and students who have dependents, may be eligible for additional funds or increased Cal Grant eligibility. 

Important Links and Resources:

  • Read detailed information about the different types of Cal Grant awards and their eligibility requirements here
  • Check out the various Cal Grant award amounts by institution type and award type here
  • Check out the 2021-2022 Cal Grant Program Income Ceiling chart here
  • Create your Webgrants 4 Students account here
  • Learn more about the Cal Grant B Foster Youth Award here
  • Learn more about Cal Grant awards for students with dependents here

Middle Class Scholarship

If you are not eligible for the Cal Grant program but still meet certain financial and general requirements, you may be eligible for something called the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS). Unlike the Cal Grant, the Middle Class Scholarship is only available to eligible students at public, four-year universities in California. Some key facts about the MCS are:

  • In order to be eligible, your family may have an annual income of up to $184,000 and hold up to $184,000 in assets
  • The Middle Class Scholarship is gift aid and does not need to be repaid
  • Award amounts for the MCS are sliding scale and may vary by student and institution. This means that you may receive a MCS at one college you have been accepted to but not another
  • Students who are eligible can receive an award amount between 10% and 40% of the mandatory system-wide tuition and fees at a University of California or California State University campus
    • At a CSU, awards can range between $574 – $2,298
    • At a UC, awards can range between $1,257 – $5,028

Like the Cal Grant, your FAFSA or California Dream Act Application serves as your application for the Middle Class Scholarship. Once you have submitted the appropriate financial aid application, you will need to create a WebGrants 4 Students account to manage your award. You will be notified if you have been awarded a Middle Class Scholarship by August.

Important Links and Resources:

  • Read the top 10 things to know about the Middle Class Scholarship here

Chafee Grant

In addition to the Cal Grant or Middle Class Scholarship, current or former foster youth who meet certain criteria may also be eligible for another financial aid program in California called the Chafee Grant. If you have been in foster care for at least one day between the ages of 16 and 18, as a dependent or ward of the court, you qualify for this award. If eligible, you can receive up to $5,000 per year (that does not need to be repaid) for five years as long as you attend a qualifying institution in or outside of California. 

You will first need to submit a FAFSA or California Dream Act application to be considered for the Chafee grant. If a first-time applicant, you will also need to complete an additional form called the California Chafee Grant application, which you can access through their Webgrants 4 Students account. If the California Department of Social Services is unable to verify your foster status, you will need to complete an additional form to certify your eligibility.

Important Links and Resources:

  • Find detailed information about eligibility, the application process, and more for the Chafee Grant here
  • To learn about your rights as a California foster youth as well as resources available to you, visit the California Office of the Foster Care Ombudsperson here

California College Promise Grant

For California residents who attend a California Community College and meet certain financial and general eligibility requirements, there is another financial aid program available called the California College Promise Grant (CCPG). This grant waives all enrollment fees for eligible students and does not need to be repaid. It is important to keep in mind that the CCPG waives the $46/unit enrollment fee for any number of units you enroll in, but does not cover additional student fees or books and supplies – you will need to cover these costs through the use of other financial aid or out of pocket. 

There are several ways to qualify for the California College Promise Grant, for instance by meeting the income requirements, providing proof of receiving certain federal or state benefits or showing a certain level of financial need. The easiest way for you to determine your eligibility is by completing the FAFSA or the California Dream Act Application, and submitting the California College Promise Grant Application for the specific community college you attend. The financial aid office will follow up to confirm eligibility and potentially request additional documents as proof. 

Important Links and Resources:

  • For a complete list of links to the California Community Colleges that offer online CCPG applications via CCCApply, click here
  • To learn more about the financial aid and opportunities available at the California Community Colleges, check out the website icanaffordcollege.com 

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After the FAFSA/Dream Act: Next Steps

Check Your Student Aid Report (SAR)

After you submit your FAFSA or Dream Act there are some additional steps that you should be aware of. For students who complete the FAFSA, there is something called a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is a summary of all information reported on the FAFSA. This summary is usually available to view a few days after you submit the FAFSA. It provides important information about potential issues with your FAFSA such as a mismatch between what you reported on the FAFSA and what the Social Security Administration has on file for your name and social security number. Any issues such as these need to be addressed as soon as possible- otherwise, it could create a delay in receiving your financial aid.  

For students who complete the Dream Act, there is a very similar document called the Cal Student Aid Report (Cal SAR) which is a summary of all information reported on the Dream Act, available a few days after you submit your application. The Cal SAR also provides important information about potential issues with your Dream Act application. You should address any such issues as soon as possible to avoid delays in the financial aid process.

The SAR and Cal SAR also will include your official Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC  is determined by the information entered into the FAFSA or Dream Act such as family income, household size, and number in college. The EFC is an important index number that is used by colleges to determine what type of and how much financial aid you can receive based upon your need. The higher the EFC, the lower the need, and the lower the EFC, the higher the need. The EFC is not the exact amount you will have to pay for college, but instead, it can be thought of as the minimum amount you and your family will need to pay. Colleges will receive your EFC and use it to determine the student’s eligibility for financial aid.

Important links and resources:

  • A helpful video about how to retrieve and download a Student Aid Report can be found here. 

 

You Might Be Selected for Verification

Another step that you should be aware of is something called verification. Verification is a process in which the federal government and colleges can request copies of specific documents to confirm the accuracy of the information reported on financial aid forms. Some students are randomly selected for verification while others are selected due to conflicting information that the colleges are seeing on the financial aid forms. 

Examples of documents required for verification can include any of the following if applicable:

  • Official tax transcripts or tax returns
  • Proof of citizenship/residency
  • Documentation of legal guardianship

This process must be completed in a timely manner! If you receive a verification request from a college you need to respond as quickly as you can so you do not miss out on potential financial aid that is first-come, first-served. Note that these verification requests may come through email, the school portal, and/or the regular postal mail.

Institutional Documentation Service – CSS Profile Submissions Only

For students required to complete the CSS Profile, there is a follow-up step that is similar to verification which is called Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC). If required, this process will also require you to submit additional documentation. 

Important Links and Resources:

  • Watch a helpful video that shows how to request a tax transcript via IRS.GOV to be mailed home here.
  • To find out you are required to complete IDOC, check out this website.
  • Created by the College Board, this is a series of slides and videos that reviews the IDOC process that can be found here

Create a WebGrants 4 Students Account

California students also need to be aware of the steps to take to secure their Cal Grant, Middle-Class Scholarship (MCS), or Chafee Grant, if awarded. For general information about these financial aid programs, see our post “All About Cal Grants and Other CA Financial Aid”. After you submit your FAFSA or Dream Act, you will need to create a WebGrants 4 Students (WG4S) account. This is the online portal that allows you to track the status of your state financial aid, complete required To-Do items and manage their award, and review your state financial aid history and remaining eligibility.

It is crucial that students complete your required steps by the appropriate deadlines, such as:

  • Confirm your intended school of attendance or make a school change
  • Certify your high school graduation date, for current high school seniors
  • Complete the Transfer Entitlement Certification, for community college transfer students
  • Complete the Cal Grant C Supplement, if being considered for Cal Grant C

Keep in mind that the timelines for you to complete these steps may vary depending on if you are a first-time applicant or renewing your award, as well as what type of award you are being considered for. You should keep track of their deadlines to ensure that you do not miss out on any state financial aid you may be eligible for. Once you have completed all of the requirements on your WG4S account, your intended college will be able to confirm their eligibility and move forward with issuing payment of their award. 

Important Links and Resources:

  • Watch a help video created by the California Student Aid Commission about how to create your WebGrants 4 Students account here

Check out a detailed description of how to complete certain steps on WG4S here.

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Academic Probation and Financial Aid

What is Academic Probation?

Academic Probation is a term used to describe when a student’s overall, or campus GPA, falls below a 2.0. All students are subject to this rule.

What happens if I am on Academic Probation?

While on academic probation, there are a few things the school will require you to do. 

What is the difference between Probation and Disqualification?

Academic Disqualification occurs when a student does not meet their class level GPA. When a student is academically disqualified, they may not be able to enroll in classes and are discontinued from attending the institution.

Academic Level Earned Units GPA
Freshman 0-29 Below 1.5
Sophomore 30-59 Below 1.70
Junior 60-89 Below 1.85
Senior 90+ Below 1.95

Can I still get financial aid on academic probation?

Yes, you can still get financial aid if you are on academic probation. Each school has specific rules and procedures to help you stay on track. 

How can I make sure I don’t lose aid?

To avoid potentially losing aid, you must have a status of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) (check with your specific school on how to meet SAP). Failure to meet SAP may result in being ineligible for aid.

Tips on improving academic performance and staying out of probation

  1. Meet with your advisors and professors for advisement
  2. Take advantage of academic resources on campus, like your school’s Learning Center
  3. Being a proactive student
  4. Following a structured schedule for studying and me-time

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What You Need to Know About Verification

Being selected for verification regarding your financial aid doesn’t mean you did something wrong.

Sometimes students are selected for something called “verification.” It is very common for students to be selected for verification. If you are selected, you need to submit additional documents or information to the financial aid office at the college that confirms what you wrote on your FAFSA.

Completing this process will ensure you receive all the potential financial aid you are eligible for and that you get your financial aid on time.

To learn more about the verification process, download this guide What You Need to Know About Verification. Guide provided by DecidED 

 

 

Everything You Need to Know About Scholarships

Scholarships = free money! There are several scholarships to choose from: local, state, or nationwide scholarships. It is important to ensure that you are applying for all the scholarships available to you. Scholarships are a great way to pay for your turion or tuition related expenses. Books, technology, and even doing laundry on campus can get expensive. You should never pay for scholarship opportunities, be careful that you are not being scammed. 

 

To learn more about scholarships and get access to scholarship opportunities, download this guide You Need to Know About Scholarships. Guide provided by DecidED