Everything You Need to Know about the Cal Grant

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The Cal Grant provides financial aid to students in California, provided by the California Student Aid Commission. This state grant allows students in financial need to pursue their vocational/career training or undergraduate degrees in eligible Californian schools, instead of cutting short their dreams and dropping out, forced by a lack of funds.

If you’re applying for the Cal Grant, here’s everything you need to know about the grant.

Who Qualifies for Cal Grant?

The Cal Grant is for students pursuing career training, vocational training, or their undergraduate degree. The grant also imposes the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be a citizen or eligible non-citizen; if not both, meet the AB540 requirements
  • Be a resident of California for a minimum of a year
  • Not hold a professional or bachelor’s degree
  • Attend a qualifying college in California
  • Demonstrate a need for financial aid (through assets and family income below the minimum levels)
  • Have the option of financial need in a school of the student’s choice
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment at least half time
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a program that awards a certificate or undergraduate degree
  • Not be incarcerated
  • Maintain the standards set by the Satisfactory Academic Progress guidelines
  • Not owe the state or federal government for any refunds
  • Not defaulted on a student loan
cal grant

How Hard Is It to Get a Cal Grant?

If you meet the grant’s eligibility requirements, are a resident of California, and are a high school graduate or equivalent from a school in California, the Cal Grant is guaranteed.

What GPA Do You Need to Get a Cal Grant?

You need a GPA of at least 3.0 in high school (2.4 in college) to receive Cal Grant A. For Cal Grant B, a GPA of 2.4 is sufficient. You need to verify your GPA by submitting a certified GPA (this can be done by filling out a GPA verification form).

Is Pell Grant the Same as Cal Grant?

Though both grants are for students in need of financial aid, the Cal Grant is a state-specific grant available only to Californians, while the Pell Grant is a federal grant that’s available to students throughout the country.

Students can qualify for both grants, and both can be applied for through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, for undocumented citizens (those who meet AB540 requirements), the Cal Grant must be applied for through the CADAA or the California Dream Act Application.

Additionally, the Pell Grant has no minimum GPA requirements in place, while the Cal Grant does.

How Do I Get My Cal Grant Money?

Cal Grant payments begin in the Fall quarter/semester of the school year in which the grant is awarded. The whole grant is divided as per the number of semesters or quarters your school has.

The grant is sent to your school and disbursed as per its payment/disbursement policies and schedule. Contact the financial aid office for more information; you’ll need to work with them to get your Cal Grant money and resolve any payment issues.

Bear in mind that if your school determines that you’re not eligible, they have every authority and right to withdraw the grant, so it’s essential that you maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress through school, attend at least half-time, and provide all the necessary documentation to your school.

Also bear in mind that summer payments awarded can be used at the end of the academic year your grant was awarded. Summer payments account for a semester/quarter of your Cal Grant eligibility.

Do I Have to Apply for Cal Grant?

Yes, you have to apply for the Cal Grant. As mentioned earlier, you can do so through the CADAA or FAFSA.

How Much Does Cal Grant Give You?

The Cal Grant amount for the academic year 2022-23 was up to $6,000 for renewal and qualifying new Cal Grant A and B recipients, while it is $4,000 for qualifying Cal Grant C awardees.

Do You Get Cal Grant Every Semester?

Cal Grants are awarded annually, though the payments are disbursed by the school each semester. You can renew your grant each year provided that you still meet all the eligibility criteria. The Cal Grant is awarded for up to eight semesters.

How Much Is Cal Grant A per Semester?

The per-semester amount varies as per each school’s disbursement policy.

For the academic year 2022-23, California State University awarded $2,871 per semester, while private non-profits awarded $4,679 and private for-profits (WASC credited) awarded $4,028. Private for-profits (non-WASC credited) awarded $2,000. This was for both Cal Grant A and B tuition.

For example, for the academic year 2019-2020, the University of Laverne, a private non-profit, awarded a maximum Cal Grant A and B tuition of $4,542 per semester to students enrolled full-time (for 12 units or more), while it was $836 per semester for students who had received the Cal Grant B Access Award and were also enrolled full time.

How Much Is Cal Grant B per Semester?

For the Cal Grant B Access Award, the per semester amount was $824 across all schools for the academic year 2022-23. The Cal Grant B tuition amount is mentioned above.

How Does Cal Grant Work?

As we know by now, a Cal Grant is a grant awarded to eligible students in need and can be applied for through the FAFSA or CADAA. Cal Grants can be used in career, technical, and qualifying independent schools and colleges, in addition to California State University and the University of California.

There are three types of Cal Grants, though you don’t need to apply for each individually. Your FAFSA/CADAA, your verified GPA, your academic qualifications, and your chosen colleges will determine which one you’re eligible for.

The Cal Grant A pays for fees and tuition at four-year colleges and the amounts awarded vary depending on the type of college, as explained earlier.

For example, the maximum grant amount for the year 2023-24, at the University of California, is $12,570, while it’s $5,472 at California State University. This grant has a GPA requirement and your course of study should end in a bachelor’s or associate degree, or lets you transfer from a community to a bachelor’s degree program.

The Cal Grant B provides living allowances, in addition to fee and tuition assistance at a two or four-year college. The living allowance may be used on supplies, living expenses, books, transportation, and tuition fees, and is awarded only once to most first-year students.

Cal Grant provides financial assistance to students in career and technical courses, paying for tools, books, and equipment. This grant is available for up to two years.

There are also Entitlement and Competitive awards.

Are Cal Grants Free Money?

Since they’re grants, Cal Grants don’t need to be repaid, which may mean free money to some.

Which Cal Grant Gives the Most Money?

Cal Grant A provides the most money, awarding up to $6,000 or more to students.

Is Cal Grant the Same as FAFSA?

No, the Cal Grant is not the same as FAFSA. The Cal Grant is financial aid provided to California students, whereas FAFSA is the mode through which you apply for the Cal Grant.

Can I Get Both Pell Grant and Cal Grant?

Yes, you can qualify for both the Pell Grant and Cal Grant.

Can I Use Cal Grant for Anything?

You can use your Cal Grant amount for any college or school-related expenses, from books to tuition to living expenses to transportation. Each Cal Grant may place some limits on what you can spend the amount on. For example, Cal Grant A is only for tuition, while B can be used for a living allowance.

The Bottom Line

The Cal Grant is a great tool for students in financial need and is guaranteed if you meet the eligibility requirements. The Cal Grant deadline for 2023-24 is the 2nd of March, 2023, so if you’re applying, we recommend doing so at the earliest to improve your chances.


  • Hussain Shoaib

    Hussain Shoaib is an author and digital marketer with expertise in financial aid and education. He has extensive knowledge of the Pell grant and FAFSA, and has published numerous articles on these topics.

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