Undocumented community college students will now be eligible for federal financial aid, known as the Pell Grant.
Undocumented students attending California community colleges paying thousands of dollars in tuition each year as non-residents or international students.
Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges, said in a press conference on Tuesday, Dec 6, that changes in eligibility for the Pell Grant have been approved.
He said, “For the first time, the Pell Grant would be opened up for undocumented students with deferred action for childhood arrivals with DACA status.”
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA,, is a program initiated by the Obama administration in August 2012 to provide some relief for the several million people who were brought to this country illegally at a very young age, most often with their parents.
Oakley said they will try hard to keep the financial aid for the tens of thousands of DACA students in California who are seeking to complete their educational goals.
He said the eligibility requirement for Cal Grants has changed. Previously, every student had to submit their FAFSA and California Dream Act application early in March to qualify for financial aid. Now they can apply for Cal Grants until Sept. 2; however, Oakley added that they encourage students to apply early.
“There is other good news: there is no longer an age restriction for community college students applying for a Cal Grant,” Oakley said. “Before these changes there was an age requirement; that is no longer the case.”
Oakley said students of any age can apply for a Cal Grant, but GPA and income requirements will stay the same as before.
The minimum GPA requirement for Cal Grant A is 3.0 for high school students and 2.4 for transfer students, and for Cal Grant B the minimum GPA requirement is 2.0.
He said, “To anticipate these changes, we will help more than 130,000 community college students eligible for a Cal Grant.”
Oakley voiced concern about enrollment, and stated that it would be lower than enrollment in 2019. He said more than two million students enrolled in community colleges in California in 2019, but in 2020 and 2021 there were less than two million. He encouraged the students to re-enroll and complete their educational goals.
Oakley did not mention why student enrollment decreased, but other sources have pointed to the pandemic.