Ask a College Advisor: How Can My Child Qualify for the California College Promise Grant for Free Community College?

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Question: How can my child qualify for the California College Promise Grant for free community college?

Answer: The California College Promise Grant was created to help low-income students and families cover the cost of tuition at participating California community colleges. To qualify, students must meet eligibility and income requirements.

If you meet the qualifications, the grant will waive the $46 per unit enrollment fee. That means a student taking 30 credit hours over the course of a single school year would save $1,380 per year in enrollment fees.

Eligibility Requirements

Not all community colleges in California participate in the program, so it’s important to check with your school of choice to see if they're a participating institution. In addition, you'll want to review other fees that may apply, such as material fees, parking fees, and facility fees. These fees are not covered (or, in some cases, are reduced but not waived) by the California College Promise Grant program and will need to be paid out-of-pocket.

There is no upper limit to the number of units for which a California College Promise Grant may be awarded, as long as the student remains enrolled in at least 12 units per term (considered full-time status), maintains aminimum GPA of 2.0, and has a completion rate of more than 50% of their classes. Some schools restrict funding to certain majors as well.

In order to qualify for the California College Promise Grant, a student must first meet the following criteria:

  • Be a California resident or have AB540 status
  • Be a first-time college student
  • Meet financial need requirements

The grant is awarded based on financial need, which takes into account both household income and household size.

For the 2022-2023 school year, the income requirements are:

Income Requirements
Household Size Total 2020 Family Income
1 $19,320
2 $26,130
3 $32,940
4 $39,750
5 $46,560
6 $53,370
7 $60,180
8 $66,990
Each additional family member $6,810

Students who do not meet the above income requirements may still be eligible for the California College Promise Grant. You may also qualify if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Receive public assistance from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children
  • Receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (AFDC/TANF/CalWORKSs)
  • Receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Are a dependent of a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor
  • Are a dependent of a victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks
  • Are a dependent of a deceased law enforcement or fire suppression personnel killed in the line of duty
  • Have certification from the California Department of Veteran Affairs or the National Guard Adjutant General

How to Apply

The application for the California College Promise Grant can be found on the California Community Colleges website. To apply for the grant, you'll need to select your community college of interest and complete either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (for undocumented students). Participating schools will use these forms to help determine your eligibility for the grant.

Completing the FAFSA may also qualify you for additional financial aid, such as other grants. It also opens up the possibility of federal student loans if you need assistance paying for other expenses, such as living expenses while you attend school.

Summary

The California College Promise Grant and other free community college programs throughout the country are an excellent way for lower-income students to attend community college for free (or very close to free). Just be sure to check with your school of choice to see if they participate in the program and review any other fees that may apply.

For those with their sights set on a four-year bachelor's degree, one could feasibly do two years at a community college for little to no cost and then transfer to a four-year university, saving a considerable amount of money. If that is your long-term goal, confirm which credits transfer and any other requirements, such as minimum grade requirements, from the university you're looking to attend.


DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.