U.S. Markets closed

Bill would boost private-college Cal Grant awards

Laura Olson, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Students at some private colleges and trade schools could receive more state grant money under one of several financial aid measures that passed a legislative committee Tuesday.

The Assembly Higher Education Committee approved a bill to restore the maximum Cal Grant award to $9,708. The amounts students could receive from the financial aid program were reduced in last year's state budget.

Grants to students at certain private, for-profit colleges were cut to $4,000 for the upcoming year. Students at private, nonprofit colleges saw a smaller decrease to $9,084 this fall and $8,056 next year.

The Republican-sponsored bill from Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, of Rocklin, and Assemblyman Mike Morrell, of Rancho Cucamonga, would increase the maximum grants beginning with the 2013-14 school year.

Supporters said their measure, AB1085, will prevent students from dropping out or transferring to public institutions.

"We need to keep college affordable so students can obtain a college degree and succeed in whatever career path they choose," Gaines said in a news release.

During the 2012-13 school year, about 269,000 higher education students in California received Cal Grant awards totaling $1.6 billion, according to legislative staff. The grants cover four years of full tuition at public universities and pay partial tuition costs at other colleges.

The bill would not alter standards approved last year preventing students from using Cal Grants at institutions with low graduation and high loan default rates.

Other bills approved by the committee Tuesday would give high-school graduates an additional two years to apply for a Cal Grant and prevent students whose income rises during their enrollment from becoming ineligible for future grants.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said the number of Cal Grant bills shows that the program needs updating.

"Evidently, there are a lot of things that are not working," she said.