Sen. Jim Beall's Proposal to Increase Foster Youth's Access to Cal Grants

January 29, 2018

SACRAMENTO – For many foster care youth, alone and without the support of parents or family members, affording the cost of college can be insurmountable. To increase their college enrollment, achievement, and graduation rates, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, today introduced Senate Bill 940, legislation that expands foster youths’ access to financial aid by extending their Cal Grant eligibility.

“Foster youth are some of the hardest working people I’ve met,’’ Beall said, “and I am committed to working just as hard to support them and expand their opportunities for success.

“We all know the important role financial aid plays in the ability for students to earn a college degree. SB 940 is a common-sense bill that expands Cal Grant eligibility for more foster youth.’’

Under the bill:

  • Foster youth will receive a Cal Grant if they meet existing eligibility criteria and submit a complete financial aid application by July 1 of the year they turn age 26.
  • The period of time a foster youth is eligible for the Cal Grant B will be extended from four years to eight years.
  • The existing March 2 deadline for Cal Grant entitlement application will change to Sept. 2 for foster youth applying to attend community college.

Research has shown that only 9 percent of eligible foster youth seldom receive Cal Grants, the state’s largest financial aid program. The size of Cal Grants ranges from as much as $1,672 for community college students to $7,414 for California State University students to $14,302 for students attending a University of California campus, and $10,756 for students at a qualifying private institution.

The low percentage is attributed to a combination of factors that include limited access to resources about how to apply for the grants and select the proper grant, and the Cal Grant’s strict timelines that make it difficult for the average foster youth to maximize their benefits.

Financial aid plays a crucial role in a foster youth’s ability to succeed in college. Foster youth who obtain financial aid are more than 40 percent more likely to earn 15 or more credits in one academic year compared to those who do not receive financial aid

SB 940 is the latest in a series of bills Beall has authored to help foster care youth during his career at the Legislature. In 2010, Beall’s landmark SB 12 was signed into law, extending benefits for eligible foster care youth beyond 18 to 21. The bill also aligned California’s foster care with the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions, making the state eligible to obtain federal funding for transitional support youth as well as the state’s Kin-Gap program.

Just as it did for SB 12, the John Burton Advocates for Youth, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for California’s foster, former foster, and homeless you, is acting as the sponsor of SB 940.

“This legislation will usher in a new era of college access for youth in California’s foster care system, by making our state’s largest financial aid program within reach: the Cal Grant,’’ said John Burton, chairman of San Francisco-based non-profit.

“We know foster youth have the heart and we know they are willing to work. Now they will have the Cal Grant, and with it, the opportunity to remain in school, earn a college degree and achieve economic security.’’

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which has long supported legislative proposals that promote the economic development opportunities for all youth, is lending its voice in support to Beall’s bill by co-sponsoring SB 940.

 “As our state continues to face a growing skills gap, we must do all we can to eliminate barriers to college, especially for our most vulnerable students,’’ said David Rattay, Executive Vice President of the Center for Education Excellence & Talent Development at the chamber.

“We applaud Senator Beall for introducing this legislation, which will expand foster youth’s access to Cal Grant entitlement awards by recognizing the unique barriers foster youth face. The Chamber is proud to stand with Senator Beall in this historic effort to modernize our state financial aid programs to better serve our highest needs students.’’