California Student Grants for College

Fund Your Education with Free Grant Money

To supplement federal financial aid opportunities, individual states put forth their own brands of student assistance.  Programs vary across The Union, but most states have mechanisms in place to get college cash into the hands of students who need it most.  Go-to aid resources, at the federal and state level, include coveted higher education grants that pay tuition bills, but never require repayment.

State programs are influenced by funding and educational traditions, so some are more extensive than others.  Your best sources for up-to-date information about initiatives in your state are:  Guidance counselors, financial aid officials, and government agencies.  The State of California takes an active role in higher education, providing generous grants for a majority of the students who matriculate within the state.

California administers several programs that provide college grants.  Cal Grants are funded by the state of California and administered by the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) in three distinct sub-categories. There are also several CSAC grants available for specialized student groups.

Overview of California “Cal Grant” College Grantscalifornia grants

Recent graduates or graduating high school seniors are eligible to apply for Cal Grants, provided they meet all eligibility criteria, including financial and academic standards. In addition, all the proper application materials must be submitted by the deadline.

The deadline for applications is September 2nd for the fall term, but it is recommended that students apply by March 2nd to maximize their chances of being selected for grants.  The number of Cal Grants awarded annually is limited by funding, so timely application puts you in the best position to land aid. Cal Grant disbursal is contingent upon the final approval of the State Budget Act. Depending on the specific Cal Grant received, students can earn over $10,000 a year for college expenses.

Cal Grant applicants must attend  qualifying colleges, universities or  career colleges within the Sate of California. Some grants pay only tuition, while others allow for room and board, and course materials like books and supplies. Applying for a Cal Grant is relatively easy. Taking home California grant money starts with the federal FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which must be submitted between January 1st and September 1st.  A verified Cal Grant GPA must also be produced.

FAFSA data is used to determine each student’s level of financial need, which in turn governs Cal Grant amounts received by each qualified applicant.  The FAFSA can be filed online, in English or as a spanish-language version.

Who can Apply for a Cal Grant

There are several requirements for Cal Grant eligibility. In addition to submitting a FAFSA and verified Cal Grant GPA by the deadline, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Be a resident of California at the time of high school graduation
  • Have a social security number
  • Attend a qualifying California college, university, career or technical school
  • Not have a bachelor’s or professional degree with the exception of Cal Grant A and B extended awards for teaching credential programs
  • Have financial need based on college costs
  • Have family income and assets below established ceilings
  • Meet any minimum GPA requirements
  • Be in a program leading to an undergraduate degree or certificate
  • Be enrolled at least half time
  • Have registered with the U.S. Selective Service
  • Not owe a refund on a state or federal grant, or be in default on a student loan
  • Applicants have one year after graduating high school to apply for a Cal Grant.

Cal Grants provide financial assistance for students continuing into higher education roles. Cal Grant recipients are seeking these academic credentials:

  • Bachelor’s Degrees
  • Associate’s Degrees
  • Occupational Certification

Cal Grants A, B, and C

California’s student assistance grant program distributes aid using a multi-tier approach that lends funding to students at a variety of institutions of higher education:

Cal Grant A Awards are reserved for students attending public and private colleges. California State University students qualify for as much as $5900 annually.  Private colleges are granted up to $9200 each, for tuition and fees for every eligible student. University of California students qualify for up to $12,500 each year.  Qualified candidates are enrolled in two-year and four-year degree programs. The program also initiates about 11,000 ‘Competitive’ Cal Grants each year, which are reserved for those whose resources exceed financial parameters, but meet other Cal Grant A program requisites.

Cal Grant B contributes funding for books and other expenses associated with higher education. Economically challenged students each qualify for supplemental grants that cover books and expenses – sometimes exceeding $1300 annually.  Participants who maintain eligibility standards continue to receive Cal Grant B money in similar amounts annually.

Cal Grant C is designed to fortify financial aid for students pursuing vocational and community college degrees and diplomas.. A minimum $575 is granted to each qualified applicant, to cover books, tools, equipment and other college costs.  Private students qualify for up to $2500 toward tuition at technical/vocational schools.

Cal Grant A Competitive Awards are reserved for student applicants maintaining GPA standards of 3.0 or higher. To qualify, Competitive Award candidates must be enrolled in Associate’s and Bachelor’s programs.  Cal Grant B Competitive Awards are distributed to the most economically needy students. A minimum GPA of 2.0 is required to apply, as well as participation in an academic program that is at least one-year long.

Community College

California Community College Transfer Entitlement Grant eases the transition for transfer students who are moving from 2-year programs to accredited 4-year university programs. Eligibility is governed by these minimum standards:

  • Cal Grant eligibility requirements
  • California resident at time of high-school graduation
  • Community college GPA of at least 2.4
  • Graduate from high-school some time after June 30, 2000
  • No Cal Grants received within one year of high-school graduation
  • Be under age 28 at the time of application

GED Applicants

High school diplomas are sufficient for Cal Grant application, but there are also options available for students with other credentials. In order to contend for aid, GED holders are required to submit their GED scores directly to the California Student Aid Commission. Applicants who graduated from schools that do not provide grades, do not have course lists approved by the University of California, or are not accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, must provide ACT or SAT scores to qulify for aid. Home-schooled and charter school applicants must submit GED, ACT or SAT scores.

California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth

In addition to Cal Grants A, B and C, there are some grants available for specific groups of California college students. One such grant is the California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth. The Chafee Grant is funded by the state, with assistance from the Federal Government. The amount awarded is determined based on each applican’s enrollment status and college of attendance.

The minimum amount granted is $5,000 per academic year, and final awards cannot exceed the total cost of college attendance. In some cases, funds are applied to rent, transportation and child care expenses, while attending school. Qualied applicants are former or current foster youth, under the age of 22 years, as of July 1 of the award year.

Dependency between the ages of 16 and 19 is a prerequisite of the Chafee Program, and must be established by the court or the California Department of Social Services. Unless a court established foster care dependency at some time between the ages of 16 and 19, applicants do not qualify.  Application materials include FAFSA results, Chafee Grant Application, Chafee Need Analysis Report (NAR), and other requested documentation.

Child Development Grant Program

The Child Development Grant Program is designed to encourage students to enter careers in the field of child care and development, and to work in licensed children’s centers. Requirements for eligibility include financial need verified by the submission of a FAFSA, U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizenship, California residency, and registration with the Federal Selective Service.

In addition to meeting basic eligibility standards, Child Development Grant candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Enrollment at least half-time in approved coursework leading to a Child Development Permit as a program director, site supervisor, teacher or master teacher; and maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the school of attendance.
  • Sign a Service Commitment Agreement which states they will provide one year of full-time service at a licensed children’s center in California for each year they receive the grant.
  • Be nominated by a qualifying post-secondary school or employing agency.

The employing agency must hold an approved waiver of staffing qualifications on behalf of the applicant. Applicants are awarded up to $1,000 annually for two-year programs and up to $2,000 for four-year programs.

Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program

The Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program (LEPD) provides educational grants to spouses and dependents of several classifications of law enforcement professionals who have been killed or have become totally disabled as a result of an accident or injury caused by external factors incurred in the performance of their duties. These groups include:

  • California peace officers
  • Department of Corrections and California Youth Authority employees
  • Permanent/full-time firefighters employed by public entities.

To qualify under the definition of peace officer, the primary duty must be enforcement of the law in the following categories:

  • Sheriffs
  • Police marshals
  • Constables
  • Port wardens or officers of the LA Harbor Department
  • Inspectors or investigators of the District attorneys
  • Designated Department of Justice personnel
  • The Highway Patrol (CHP)
  • State police
  • National guard
  • University of California police
  • State university and college police
  • Designated personnel of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Designated personnel of the Department of Fish and Game
  • Designated personnel of the Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Designated personnel of the Department of Forestry
  • Designated personnel of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Applications for the LEPD Grants are accepted throughout the academic year and match the amount of a Cal Grant award.

Each grant is valued between $100-$11,259 per academic year,  for up to four years. An application for the LEPD Grant can be obtained by contacting the Specialized Programs Branch of the California Student Aid Commission at (888)224-7268, option 3, or by request in writing.  Completed application packages must be submitted to the California Student Aid Commission at PO Box 419029, Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9029.

A complete package includes:

  • A copy of applicant’s current Student Aid Report (SAR) which is generated after filing a FAFSA
  • Birth certificate – if applicant is a dependent

Death certificate of the parent or spouse and the coroner’s report if appropriate, police report and any other documentation that shows evidence that the death or total disability was the result of:

  • external violence or physical force incurred in the line of a peace or law enforcement officer’s duty
  • direct action of an inmate against an officer or employee of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • accident or injury incurred in the performance of a firefighter’s duty.
  • findings of the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board or other evidence that the death or total disability was compensable according to the Labor Code
  • proof of enrollment at a qualified California post-secondary institution for the applicable academic year.

California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program (CNG EAAP)

The California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program (CNG EAAP) is designed to provide assistance for service members who remain active in the National Guard, Naval Militia or the State Military Reserve.  Grants enable educational incentives to improve competencies, skills, and abilities.

Selected participants receive:

  • up to the amount of the Cal Grant A award when attending the University of California or California State University
  • up to the Cal Grant B award amount for attending a community college
  • up to the University of California Cal Grant A amount for attending a private institution
  • up to the Cal Grant A award, plus $500 for books and supplies, for graduate studies.

Participants are awarded either CNG EEAP Grants or Cal Grants in any academic year, but not both. Eligible applicants for the CNG EEAP:

  • Must be an active member of, and served two years in the California National Guard, Naval Militia, or State Military Reserve
  • Must agree to remain an active membership status  throughout the participation period of the grant
  • Must agree to use the award to obtain a degree, diploma or certificate that is not currently held
  • Has been accepted or is registered or enrolled in a qualifying school
  • Must agree to maintain enrollment in at least three academic units per semester, or the equivalent, at a qualifying school
  • Must agree to maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA annually in a qualifying school
  • Must be a resident of California for at least one year immediately preceding the date of determination.

The Office of the Adjutant General certifies each applicant’s status as a member of the National Guard, Naval Militia or State Military Reserve, but the applicant is responsible for all other documentation. The Office of the Adjutant General reviews all applicants, ranks the eligible applicants according to established criteria, and announces selected applicants by notification.

Finding Applications

Applications are available online or by request to the Office of the Adjutant General. Most grants require applicants to fill out the FAFSA. This can be completed online or downloaded, printed and mailed. Applications for Cal Grants and other specialized California grants are available from the California Student Aid Commission.


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