March 8, 2022
Senator Connie Leyva, Chair
Senate Education Committee
1021 O Street, Room 6740
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Senator Leyva,
On behalf of Inland Action, I write to share our support for Senate Bill 851, by Senator Anthony Portantino. This legislation improves the Cal Grant program for California students and their families by making it more equitable, easier to navigate, and improving financial support for low-income students as they determine where to pursue a bachelor’s degree. With over 80 independent nonprofit colleges and universities located throughout California, it is important that financial aid policies provide equitable support to low-income students as they navigate their college options and determine which institution(s) offer the best fit of academic program, financial support, student services, location, and extracurricular offerings.
SB 851 proposes several changes to the Cal Grant program, each of which is designed to ensure low-income California students attending independent nonprofit California colleges and universities have equitable access to need-based grant aid. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Replace a potential 13% trigger cut to the Cal Grant award amount for new recipients attending these institutions with a stable baseline amount and provide a pathway for the award amount to increase in specified instances.
- Expand eligibility for supplemental $6,000 Cal Grant awards for former and current foster youth and students with dependent children to include those who attend an independent California college or university. Currently, students are only eligible for these supplemental awards if they attend a public university.
- Allow California Community College (CCC) students who gained Cal Grant eligibility via last year’s budget actions to use remaining entitlement program eligibility upon transfer to an independent California college or university. Current law states that these students may only utilize remaining Cal Grant transfer entitlement eligibility if they transfer to a University of California or California State University campus.
At the University of Redlands, your alma mater and one of our members, more than 40% of entering first year students this year benefitted from the Cal Grant, the majority of whom will be among the first generation in their family to obtain a college degree. Through extremely generous financial aid from the University, these students who had a 3.5 high school GPA or higher have their entire tuition covered in grant aid (Cal Grant; possibly Pell Grant; and University gift aid). The fact that the Cal Grant award to independent institutions has not only not increased, but actually decreased over the past twenty years, makes it increasingly difficult for students to have choice in their college process.
This legislation proposes common-sense improvements to the Cal Grant program that align with the legislature’s goals of improving college access, affordability, equity, and completion. For these reasons, I respectfully request your AYE vote on this legislation.
Carole Beswick, CEO