Committee on higher education votes in favor of Cal Grant bills

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A series of bills seeking to reform the state’s Cal Grant program passed through the state Assembly’s higher education committee Tuesday.

The Committee on Higher Education voted in favor of Assembly bills 1287, 1285, 1364, 1241, 1318 and 1085, which seek to expand accessibility and increase grant benefits in light of recent reductions to the Cal Grant program.

“Not only is there a need for these bills, but there’s a consensus that we want to make these investments in education and really come out with a productive investment,” said Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, who authored AB 1287. “If we’re really going to get California back on track, we have to invest in education.”

All six bills were introduced in February. AB 1287 would guarantee that students who are initially approved for a Cal Grant continue to receive it for four years, as long as they are financially qualified. Quirk-Silva said that this could prevent eligible students, whose family incomes would fall just below the threshold in following years, from being eliminated from receiving grant aid.

“It’s devastating for those students and families that a moderate increase could have such a severe impact,” Quirk-Silva said.

AB 1241 hopes to expand accessibility by increasing the amount of time a student is eligible to apply for a Cal Grant from one to two years. Additionally, AB 1364 aims to increase the amount of award money students receive to no less than $5,900 while ensuring that adjustments fall in line with inflation.

According to the website of the UC Office of the President, the UC system has taken a neutral position on AB 1241 and 1285 and has yet to take an official stance on AB 1318, AB 1364 and AB 1287.

The UC Student Association has supported the passage of AB 1285, AB 1364, AB 1241 and AB 1287 and advocated for the bills in a campaign initiated this week urging UC students to contact their respective Assembly members.

“It’s very important that the Cal Grant program be sustained and expanded,” said Darius Kemp, organizing and communications director of the UCSA. “The higher education system should get more funding than it currently is getting. This is the time for us to actually do that.”

Quirk-Silva said one concern the cost of the bills may bring up is that legislators will have to find a way to balance education with other objectives, such as health care and child care, in the budget.

The legislation will now move into the Committee on Appropriations, which will give an estimate of how much the bills would cost if passed. The committee is expected to make a decision on whether the bills will move to the Assembly floor around April 23.

Gladys Rosario covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @gladysrosario93.