New CA budget would increase GPA requirements for financial aid

Significant changes will be coming to financial aid and student loans next year including tougher GPA requirements and limited funding.

The new 2012-2013 budget proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown aims to increase the GPA requirements for the Cal Grant, the financial aid program administered by the State of California and the California Student Aid Commission.

The proposal would increase the Cal Grant A GPA requirement from a 3.0 to 3.25, the high school entitlement Cal Grant B GPA requirement of 2.0 to 2.75 and increase the Transfer Entitlement Cal Grant B GPA requirement from 2.4 to 2.75.

“The primary step is to protect the Cal Grant Program,” said Miles Nevin, executive director of California State Students Association. “We feel those essential Cal Grant Programs need to be maintained.”

CSSA is an independent, non-profit student association that addresses issues affecting students within the CSU system at the statewide and systemwide level.

“It’s ridiculous because it’s another ploy by the state to cut down enrollment,” said Gwen Kelley, a double major in studio art and earth science. “It’s a suppression of the uneducated and preventing them from getting an education.”

Current students and those starting college in the fall will also be affected by changes being made to the Pell Grant. The government spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 17 places new restrictions on those eligible for the Pell Grant, money provided to students by the federal government based on financial need.

Each full-time student who receives the grant will now only be eligible for funding for 12 semesters instead of the previous 18. However, the maximum award amount will be maintained at $5,550.

“With all these changes financial aid has just become a line item in the budget,” said Stephanie Thara, CSU spokeswoman.

Also, the previous six-month grace period on interest charged on federal student loans has been suspended and interest will begin accumulating immediately after a student graduates. These changes to financial aid will go into affect starting July.

The state legislative analysis released a report on the Governor’s Higher Education Proposal for the 2012-2013 budget.

“We agree with several aspects of the Governor’s financial aid proposals, including the need to refine some eligibility criteria and to phase out some unproductive programs. However, we believe some of the strengthened academic requirements, as well as reductions to Cal Grant awards for needy students at private institutions, would unreasonably harm access,” the proposal said.

In Gov. Brown’s budget proposal he states that by changing the GPA requirements “this will focus limited financial aid resources on those students who are most likely to complete their degrees.”

It is estimated that 26,600 fewer students will make the cut for financial aid with the new requirements, saving the state $131 million.