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Cal Grant Vs. Pell Grant

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

The US government is committed to helping students afford higher-level education. As such, there are numerous financial aids available from both the federal and state government. Grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans are all financial aid forms.

The National Center for Education estimates that over 85% of students receive some form of financial aid. Low-income students, adult learners, and students from minority groups make up most of those seeking government financial aid. Equal access to education is important for these groups to help them take advantage of opportunities that will alleviate their living conditions.

There are two common types of financial aid from the US government: Cal Grant vs. Pell Grant. The Cal Grant is a financial aid program that provides grants to eligible California residents who attend qualifying colleges or universities in California. The Pell Grant is a federal financial aid program that provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students.

A student can receive both the Cal Grant and Pell Grant.

How Does Financial Aid Work?

Financial aid is a form of monetary assistance provided to students to help them pay for their college education. Students apply for financial aid by filling out a FAFSA form, which is used to determine their eligibility and financial need.

Based on the student's need and eligibility, the financial aid office puts together a package that may include grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and loans. The availability and amount of financial aid can vary depending on the college or university and the student's financial situation.

Significance Of Grants In Funding Education

Grants are a critical component of funding higher education for many students, especially those from low-income families or those who would otherwise be unable to afford college. The grants are non-repayable, which makes them a valuable source of financial assistance.

Grants can cover tuition, fees, and other expenses associated with attending college. Additionally, grants can help level the playing field and ensure that students from all economic backgrounds can access higher education, promoting social mobility and economic growth.

Cal Grants Explained

The Cal Grant is a state-funded financial aid program available to eligible California residents pursuing an undergraduate degree at a qualifying institution in California. Cal Grants are designed to provide financial assistance to low and middle-income students and can cover various school expenses like tuition, books, living expenses, etc.

There are three types of Cal Grants: Cal Grant A, Cal Grant B, and Cal Grant C, each with specific eligibility requirements and award amounts. The Cal Grant Program is administered by the California Student Aid Commission and is a valuable source of financial support for many California students.

Eligibility Of Cal Grants

Here are the general eligibility requirements for Cal Grants:

  • Be a California resident for at least a year or AB 540-eligible student
  • Be a US citizen, eligible non-citizen, or meet AB 540 Criteria
  • Apply for a CADAA or FAFSA to determine your financial need
  • Be pursuing an undergraduate degree or vocational/career program
  • Attend a qualifying California college, university, or career/technical school
  • Meet GPA requirements (a minimum of 2.0 GPA for Cal Grant B and a minimum of 3.0 GPA for Cal Grant A and Cal Grant C)
  • Have registered in US Selective Service (for most males)
  • Must not be incarcerated or have a default student loan

In addition to the above requirements, eligibility requirements are specific to each Cal Grant program. For example, Cal Grant A provides financial assistance to low and middle-income students pursuing an undergraduate degree, while Cal Grant B assists disadvantaged students. Cal Grant C assists students pursuing vocational and technical education programs.

Types Of Cal Grants To Check Out

Here are the three types of Cal Grants, along with their eligibility criteria, award amounts, maximum award, and renewal requirements:

Cal Grant A

  • Eligibility: High school seniors or recent graduates with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and who meet income and asset ceilings
  • Award Amount: Covers tuition and fees at a qualifying institution
  • Max Award: Up to $9,358 per academic year for private colleges, up to $5,742 per academic year for California State Universities, and up to $12,570 for the University of California Students
  • Renewal Requirements: Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress and meet income and asset ceilings yearly. For 2023-2024, the income ceiling is $145,200 for a family of six or more.

Cal Grant B

  • Eligibility: High school seniors or recent graduates with a minimum GPA of 2.0 who come from disadvantaged or low-income families
  • Award Amount: Covers a living allowance, tuition, and fees at a qualifying institution where the living allowance can be used to pay for books, supplies, transportation, etc.
  • Max Award: Up to $1,648 for living expenses, in addition to covering the same award amounts as Cal Grant A for tuition and fees
  • Renewal Requirements: Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress and demonstrate financial need yearly. For 2023-2024, the income ceiling is $79,700 for a family of six.

Cal Grant C

  • Eligibility: Students pursuing a vocational or technical education program, including vocational certificates or occupational degrees
  • Award Amount: Covers tuition and training costs at a qualifying institution, as well as an additional access award for books, tools, and equipment.
  • Max Award: Up to $1,094 for books, equipment, and tools and $2,462 for tuition and fees per academic year for up to two years.
  • Renewal Requirements: Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress and continue in a vocational or technical education program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Check out these answers to common questions.

How much does Cal Grant give you?

The amount of financial aid provided by Cal Grant varies depending on the type of grant and the institution the student attends. Here is a breakdown of the maximum award amounts for the 2022-2023 academic year:

Cal Grant A: Up to $12,570 per academic year for the University of California students, up to $9,358 for private colleges, and up to $5,742 per academic year for state colleges
Cal Grant B: Up to $1,648 for living expenses, in addition to covering similar award amounts as Cal Grant A for tuition and fees at a qualifying institution
Cal Grant C: Up to $1,094 per academic year for books and equipment and $2,462 for tuition and fees

It's important to note that these are maximum award amounts, and a student's actual amount may be lower depending on their financial need and the availability of funds.

How hard is it to get a Cal Grant?

The difficulty in obtaining a Cal Grant varies depending on the specific program and the applicant's qualifications. The Cal Grant program has limited funding, and the number of grants awarded each year depends on the state's budget.

Additionally, the program has specific eligibility requirements, such as being a California resident, attending a qualifying institution, and meeting GPA and financial need requirements.

What GPA do you need to get a Cal Grant?

You need to have a minimum GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale for Cal Grant B and a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for Cal Grant A and Cal Grant C. The GPA is calculated based on your high school or college coursework, depending on your academic history.

Need more resources on the difference vs. Pell Grant to other grants? Check out our article about FAFSA vs. Pell Grant to learn more.

If you think you should get a Cal Grant vs. Pell Grant, don't worry. The good news is that you can qualify for both and combine these funds to afford college. Learn about Pell Grant in our blog.

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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