Senator Portantino’s Cal Grant Equity & College Access Act Passes Senate Education Committee

Thursday, March 10 2022

For Immediate Release: March 10, 2022

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino’s Cal Grant Equity & College Access Act Passes Senate Education Committee

Sacramento, CA – Senate Bill 851, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge), passed the Senate Education Committee. The measure strengthens and expands financial support for low-income college students who choose to attend independent, nonprofit California colleges and universities. 

“While it is undeniably the most robust state aid program in the country, the Cal Grant needs improvement,” stated Senator Portantino. “SB 851 will remove arbitrary limits on student access to higher education and provide broad equal opportunity for undergraduates to thrive at institutions of higher education across California.”

Under existing law, low-income California students are excluded from several parts of the Cal Grant program if they attend an independent California college or university (ICCU), including the supplemental $6,000 award for students with dependent children, the supplemental $6,000 award for current and former foster youth, and the ability to utilize their California Community College Transfer Entitlement award.

“With the help of the Cal Grant, our students are able to enroll in the college or university and graduate that best meets their needs,” stated Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson, President of Mount Saint Mary’s University.  “Our students choose MSMU because they know this is a place where they will thrive.  But to earn that degree they depend on our state to support their education and we are grateful to our Legislature for its continued support of students.  SB 851 helps build a better Cal Grant program by providing greater stability in the award for students, by expanding access to supplemental aid for our adult parents and foster youth, and expanding the portability of the transfer entitlement.  We are preparing the next generation of leaders in California.  They need and deserve our full support!”

SB 851 strengthens and expands the state’s support of low-income college students who choose to attend an ICCU by restructuring the existing framework for Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) admit targets and Cal Grant award amounts to provide a pathway to future award growth for students.  It also expands eligibility for supplemental Cal Grant support to student parents and foster youth who attend an ICCU and the California Community College Entitlement Program to allow newly eligible transfer students to use their remaining Cal Grant eligibility at an ICCU.

The changes reflected in SB 851 will improve affordability for low-income students, remove artificial barriers to supplemental support, and eliminate discrepancies on how foster students, parents, and community college transfer students are treated under the Cal Grant program if they choose to attend an independent college or university. The bill also addresses the need to restructure the Associate Degree for Transfer targets that are used to set the Cal Grant award amounts for students attending ICCUs by establishing more appropriate metrics.  The existing targets were made based on several factors including enrollment targets that did not take into account declining enrollment.

“Today’s unanimous vote on SB 851 is a positive step towards achieving equity and parity for Cal Grant students at our institutions.  It will further expand regional access for students and assure that there is a place for them to achieve their college dream here in California.  We are delighted to advance the Cal Grant Equity and College Access Act forward and continue empowering the next generation of leaders,” stated Kristen Soares, President of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.

SB 851 is sponsored by AICCU, which represents more than eighty (80) independent nonprofit colleges and universities in California that collectively educate over 180,000 undergraduate students, including approximately 27,000 Cal Grant recipients and over 32,000 adult learners.  AICCU institutions also enroll over 4,700 new California Community College students annually.