High school seniors and their families in Los Angeles will be able to receive considerable help filling out college-aid forms next spring, thanks to an initiative from Mayor James K. Hahn.
“Free Cash for College” was introduced last week as a way to increase local participation in a state-sponsored grant program called Cal Grants, which provides tuition help to low- and middle-income students.
“This is an extraordinarily powerful mechanism for families to send their kids to college,” said Joy Chen, the deputy mayor of Los Angeles in charge of workforce development.
Even though the California legislature passed a law in 2000 that made the Cal Grants an entitlement—meaning that students who qualify and properly apply for the grants receive them—many families have not taken advantage of the opportunity. That’s because many families are not aware that the grants exist, or they become frustrated because the forms are tedious to fill out, Ms. Chen said.
Students who receive Cal Grants are eligible for between $1,500 and $9,700 per year for in-state tuition aid. They can also receive $1,500 a year to help cover the cost of books, transportation, and living expenses.
The “Free Cash for College” initiative is a joint effort of the mayor, the chamber of commerce, business and community leaders, and the 737,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District.
To introduce high school seniors to the effort, a college and career convention has been scheduled for next week, Nov. 7-9, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The main event, however, will take place in early February, according to Ms. Chen. At that time, 50 high schools will host a weekend-long affair in which local accountants, bankers, and other professionals will help families fill out the applications. The forms consist of about 200 questions.
“By increasing the number of properly filled out applications being sent to Sacramento,” Ms. Chen said, "[the mayor] will be opening up access to education for L.A. families.”