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Save Money on California Tuition: California Financial Aid

Updated: Oct 9, 2023


Get California In-State Tuition


One of the more affordable ways to get a bachelor’s degree typically is to attend an in-State public school. Here is a website with information about how to qualify as a California resident: https://www.ucop.edu/uc-legal/_files/ed-affairs/uc-residence-policy.pdf. While in-State tuition for a public institution is not financial aid, it is subsidized.





California is strict about providing in-State tuition only if a student clearly qualifies for it. Moreover, California public universities typically reserve need-based aid for in-State students. Out-of-State families that do not want to pay the sticker price should look at universities other than California public universities. This is particularly important since the University of California (UC) system has its own unique application system and essay requirements. The time your kid spends filling out a unique UC application might be better spent applying for scholarships if you are on a budget.


The cost of attending an in-State public institution should be compared against the cost of other institutions after financial aid awards are offered. Families often do not pay the sticker price. An Ivy League university may provide enough need-based financial aid that the Ivy League university is less expensive for a California family than the UCs.


Cal Grant Programs A, B, and C


The Cal Grant programs provide need-based financial aid. Information about the programs can be found at: https://www.csac.ca.gov/cal-grants. Students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA ® to apply for a grant under this program. Students also have the option of applying using the CA Dream Act Application. Eligibility requirements to receive a Cal Grant include being a California resident, attending an eligible California school, demonstrating financial need, and meeting minimum GPA requirements. Students from middle-income families with a 3.0 GPA in high school may qualify for an award. Cal grant recipients need to maintain satisfactory academic progress to remain eligible.


Cal Grant programs are divided into A, B, and C. You don’t need to apply to a specific category (A, B, or C). The category you are eligible for is based partly on the type of institution you attend. In addition, the size of the Cal Grant is based partly on the cost of tuition. Whether a student attends a UC, a California State University, or a private college can affect the size of the award. Cal Grant program “C” is for vocational training. You can see the maximum Cal Grants here, which can differ by year in college, type of college attended, and the category of the Cal Grant (A, B, or C)): https://www.csac.ca.gov/post/what-are-cal-grant-award-amounts.


Other California Need-Based Grants


The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan covers tuition and fees for students attending UC schools, provided that the family income is less than $80,000 a year. For more information, please see: https://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/tuition-financial-aid/types-of-aid/blue-and-gold-opportunity-plan.html.


While in-State students can receive need-based aid to attend California public universities, they should be aware that the aid will likely be insufficient to cover their total cost of attendance, which includes room and board.


Get a California Government Grant to Go to a Private School


The Cal Grant “A” program provides grant aid that California residents may use to attend private schools. Information about the Program is available at: https://www.csusm.edu/finaid/documents/cal_grants_abc.pdf. The maximum size of the grant was recently around $9,700.


Other California Grants and Scholarships


Other California programs are more narrowly targeted to certain groups of students, which are included on this website: https://www.csac.ca.gov/financial-aid-programs. These types of eligible students include: foster youth, students pursuing a teaching career, students who attended high schools with a large proportion of English language learners, and students connected to the military or national guard.


California Merit-Based Financial Aid


California does not have the large merit-based financial aid programs one finds in Georgia (Hope Scholarships) or Florida (Bright Futures). Individual private institutions, however, distribute merit-based aid. Typically, the application for admission to the institutions functions as the application for the scholarship. In addition, less selective private institutions are typically more likely to provide merit-based financial aid than highly selective institutions. Merit aid from individual California public institutions is fairly unusual – about five to 16 percent of students at a UC receive merit aid depending on the UC.


California Community Colleges


California has a well-established community college system, which includes formal ways to transfer from inexpensive community colleges to four-year colleges, including those in the UC system. For more information, please see: https://www.educ8fit.com/post/an-affordable-path-to-a-bachelor-s-degree-california-community-colleges.


Educ8Fit Consulting


For more information about financial aid in general, please visit my website at Paying for College | Educ8Fit Consulting. Please contact Educ8Fit Consulting at either Jim@Educ8Fit.com or College Admission Counseling | Educ8fit Consulting | United States, contact for a free 30-minute consultation.





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