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Hit the Books Harder, Kids!

Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced a proposal to raise the minimum required GPA for students who want access to California State Grants (Cal Grants). This proposal was one of many attempting to decrease the state deficit this upcoming fiscal year.

If the proposal were to be implemented, it would raise the minimum GPA requirement for both Cal Grant A and Cal Grant B recipients.  The minimum GPA for Cal Grant A recipients would rise from a 3.0 to a 3.25 and Cal Grant B recipients from 2.0 to a 2.75 for all UC campuses. The proposal also raises GPA requirements for Cal Grants for state schools, community colleges and private colleges.

Cal Grants work in the same manner that Federal Grants do in that the recipient of the money does not have to pay it back. Cal Grant A recipients can receive up to $12,000 a year while Cal Grant B recipients can receive up to $1,500 for their first year in college and continued payments of lesser amounts for the other three years. Not all Cal Grants are guaranteed, and a limited amount of money is distributed to those the state deems are in most need.

Once the Financial Aid office heard of the governor’s proposal, they did some research to see how UCI would be affected if the legislature were to implement it. At the head of the effort was the director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships office, Christopher Schultz.

“As far as UCs are concerned and specifically UCI, we’ve gone back and looked right after the proposal came out to see how many students would be affected by this, and it’s really minimal because UCI is a really competitive school to get into, and the GPA cutoffs are pretty low, so most of those kids wouldn’t get in anyway,” Shultz said.

“I identified the students that would lose their Cal Grant; it would be a total of 10 students.”

Although Schultz didn’t name any of the 10 students, he went on to explain how the change in GPA requirements would only affect those 10 students.

“The assumption is that we wouldn’t be looking at GPAs for continuing students because the way that Cal Grants work is that GPA is checked when they awarded it, when they’re incoming, we don’t check it afterwards,” he said. “If he would want us to check it on an annual basis then the impact could be larger. We have very few students under those GPA cutoffs anyway that would be affected by this.  The Cal States and community colleges would really be impacted a lot, larger than the UCs.”

If the current proposal were to be implemented, it wouldn’t affect current college students, only new students. However, the proposal could be amended while in the state legislature. According to Schultz, it could be amended so that it will affect current students as well, but students could influence the process.

“Well it’s not law yet so until its law there’s always things people can do,” he said. “They can lobby their representation in Sacramento other than the governor. He seems pretty set in his way but he could change his mind also.”

There are those at UCI who oppose Gov. Brown’s proposal outright. Some feel that the state should relieve students of debt in times of economic strife. Among those who are opposed to the governor’s proposal is freshman Eric Chan.

“I think that getting grants should be easier in this economy,” Chan said. “People will need money if they want to go to school without getting deep into debt.”

Not all agree with Chan. Some on campus believe that Gov. Brown is justified in calling for a rise in GPA requirements for Cal Grants, such as senior Nicholas Neel.

“I think if you’re getting money paid from the state I think you should be able to do well in school and you should take it seriously,” Neel said.

“I mean maybe a 3.25 is a little high but I don’t think that a 2.75 is outrageous, or something that is unrealistic for people,” he said. “It’s kind of like being paid to go to school so it’s kind of like you’re getting a free education”.

For now, Gov. Brown’s proposal has no legal standing.  It will be up to the state legislature to vote on his proposal to decide if it will go into effect. The state legislature is expected to decide on the proposal sometime later this year.