By Melody Gutierrez
SACRAMENTO — Some 50,000 college-bound high school seniors filled out applications last year for state financial aid, but were disqualified because they failed to submit the required transcripts from their schools.
Now, a San Francisco legislator wants to fix that problem by requiring school districts — not parents and students — to send transcripts of all graduating seniors to the state agency that doles out the monetary awards known as Cal Grants.
Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said he was moved to push AB 2160 after seeing data showing a correlation between high application completion rates for Cal Grants and schools that electronically sent data to the aid commission for all graduating students.
A report released Tuesday by the education think tank Ed Trust-West found 71 percent of 12th-graders in districts including San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles successfully completed Cal Grant applications when using electronic transcripts verification compared with 56 percent in districts that did not.
Of the nearly 320 high schools in the Bay Area’s nine counties, 120 of them submit transcript data electronically.
“We are trying to take one barrier out of their way so students can get access to the money they deserve,” Ting said.
Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who is co-authoring the bill, said: “Students in California today have enough stress on their plate. They have enough challenges. … The challenge of making sure a counselor sends their transcript off is something they shouldn’t have to worry about.”
The legislation also would take care of another problem.
California Student Aid Commission officials said they receive 35,000 paper forms from students this year — forms that are then processed by hand by commission staff.
“The longer it takes us to key-enter things, the longer it takes for us to tell students they qualify,” said Diana Fuentes-Michel, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, which administers Cal Grants. “And this is a time when money matters.”
The application deadline for applying for a Cal Grant this year is March 2.
The transcript, or GPA verification form, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are required to apply for a Cal Grant, which awards aid based on a family’s income levels and the cost of the school. Both forms are also required for the new Middle Class Scholarship, which awards tuition breaks of up to 40 percent for students whose families earn less than $150,000.
A Dream Act application is required in place of the FAFSA for undocumented students.
Diana Fuentes-Michel, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, said the obstacles some districts have cited have to do with privacy concerns about sharing the grades of all students.
“Part of the concern is that local districts may have policies where they have to opt-in and request their GPA be submitted,” she said.
— Reach Melody Gutierrez at [email protected]