Students who rely on federal funding will face increased out-of-pocket tuition expenses starting in the fall.
Currently, students are eligible for 18 full-time semesters of federal Pell Grant aid, but starting July 1, only 12 semesters of will be offered, according to the Association of Community College Trustees.
In addition to reducing the number of semesters that students may receive Pell Grants, aid for Ability-to-Benefit students will be eliminated. ATB tests are administered to students seeking federal financial aid but who do not have a high school diploma. As a result, about 65,000 students nationwide who demonstrated their academic capacity through testing stand to lose a per-grant average of $3,932.
Changes to Zero Expected Family Contribution standards will also take place in July.
About 12,000 students will be denied an average of $4,098. In the past, zero EFC students had to have a maximum family income of $32,000 and at least one family member eligible for food stamps or other social programs, according to the ACCT. The new maximum income will be $23,000.
The best way to combat the aid cuts is to have an education plan, Santa Ana College Dean of Financial Robert Manson said.
“Know what you want to do while you’re here because it is getting more restricted,” he said. “If you spend a lot of time exploring different options, you may use up all your benefits before you’re able to complete a goal.”
The cuts are coupled with policies that put California’s community college students in a bind. The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act guarantees transfer admission to the California State University system, but an upcoming admissions freeze for the Spring 2013 semester may leave many students with few choices.
SAC mathematics major Harvey Acosta is ready to move on to a CSU campus soon.
“My personal preference is to go to Long Beach State, but it feels like I’m being forced to go to Fullerton.” Nonetheless, he added, “transferring is something I’m looking forward to.”
California’s strapped education budget may lead to more cuts if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax proposal fails in the November elections.
“I feel like it’s almost a feeder system nowadays,” Acosta said.
Brown’s initiative would increase the sales tax by one-quarter cent and raise taxes on those who earn $250,000 per year or more.