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Lawmakers seek to streamline financial aid applications

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced new legislation Tuesday that would streamline the application process for the state's college financial aid program. He was joined by Dr. Orville Jackson, left, of Education Trust-West and state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo).
(Melanie Mason / Los Angeles Times)
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<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

SACRAMENTO -- Lawmakers announced a new bill Tuesday that would streamline the college financial aid application process, in hopes of increasing high school students’ access to higher-education cash.

Under the measure by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), school districts would be required to electronically submit verified grade-point averages of graduating 12th-grade students to the California Student Aid Commission, the agency that administers the financial aid program Cal Grants.

GPA verification is required for a Cal Grant application, as well as a completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

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Some schools and districts -- including Los Angeles Unified School District -- already submit the GPA information electronically. But other schools still use paper applications to submit the GPAs, and Ting said he was concerned the applications for those students could be falling through the cracks.

Ting, at a news conference Tuesday, said there is a “huge correlation for districts or schools that submit that information electronically and the application rates for Cal Grants.”

LAUSD reported implementing an electronic reporting system for GPAs resulted in 2,000 more students receiving Cal Grant awards in 2012 than in previous years.

Dr. Orville Jackson, a research analyst with Education Trust-West, an education policy and advocacy group, said streamlining the aid application process could have larger ripple effects.

“We know from the research that the simple act of filling out a financial aid application increases the student’s chances of going to college and finishing college,” he said.

Completion of the FAFSA application among California’s high school seniors increased from 54% in 2012 to 61% in 2013, Jackson said. But, he said, nearly 170,000 12th graders did not complete an application last year.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who co-authored the bill, AB 2160, said the measure would mean one less source of stress for already-frazzled high school seniors.

“As they’re going to apply to college, the challenge of making sure that counselor or school district sends that transcript off is something they shouldn’t have to worry about,” Hill said.

[For the Record, 5:44 p.m. PST Feb. 25: An earlier version of this post said 60% of high school seniors completed an FAFSA application in 2013. Actually, it’s 61%.]

melanie.mason@latimes.com


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