California lawmakers will consider legislation that would reform how California distributes financial aid, enabling students, who were not previously eligible for Cal Grants to participate in the program.
The Cal Grant Reform Act was written by Assemblymembers Jose Medina, D-Riverside, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and was introduced on Feb. 19.
The bill would make it easier for low-income students to become eligible for the state’s financial aid by reforming the current rules.
“One of the main ways in which the new legislation is different is that they’re working to expand it to more students who are need-based,” said Laura Evans, University of La Verne director of financial aid. “This will enhance the program so that more of our needy students are able to qualify.”
Evans said that a lot of ULV students are already Cal Grant recipients. The Cal Grants have allowed them to pursue a higher education, where they would otherwise not be able to afford to.
“Our mission is to provide access and opportunity for any student that wants to and qualifies to attend ULV,” University President Devorah Lieberman said. “For me, the Cal Grant is an enormous tool that students have available.”
Evans said that under current law students age out of Cal Grant eligibility at 26. The proposed Cal Grant Reform Act would not have such an age restriction.
“It’s a good thing to ensure that those who start school later are still able to go, especially due to the increase in number of students who go to work (first),” Evans said.
“Life happens,” said Juan Regalado, ULV chief student affairs officer. “It’s not so much by choice. Or maybe it wasn’t the right time to go to school, but we want to make sure we have an opportunity for adult students.”
He added that the new bill would help out students who may be coming back to school to receive their master’s degrees.
Gage Unsoeld, a sophomore kinesiology major, said that the proposed Cal Grant expansion would be a great idea, given that it might help more students to attend the school. He said that if a larger portion of students were offered financial aid, as the bill would now apply to students from low-income families, then perhaps they would consider applying for ULV.
Despite the changes that bill would make if passed, it may make it harder for students from middle-class households to receive financial aid. These are students whose families cannot afford to pay for education but also cannot afford to borrow loans.
Evans said that the aspect that one group can potentially lose those sources when the rules are switched is something to consider so amendments can be made if the bill is passed.
Evans pointed out that if middle-class students are unable to receive Cal Grants, then they might need to borrow loans, which could mean borrowing loans for four to six years for education. In that case, a student would end up paying them for 10 to 15 years after graduating.
“You’re paying student loans instead of a mortgage, then you’re further from retirement,” Evans said.
Regalado said that he wants to make sure that concerns are shared in order for the Cal Grant to be revised to ensure that students are supported in the best way possible.
Lieberman said that she has met with officials and Assembly members to discuss this matter, as she wants to ensure that students have access to the finances they need to in order to have access to an education.
Evans spoke of the importance of higher education in society, as most jobs now require at least a bachelor’s degree. Without the necessary financial resources, students will be unable to attain a bachelor’s degree. In turn, they will be ineligible for a job with a successful schedule, health insurance, or steady income.
“If we’re not doing enough to invest in higher education, then we’re not doing enough to keep people out of poverty,” Evans said.
Taylor Moore can be reached at email@example.com.