Community & Government Report

The year 2012 is here and, as with all years divisible by four, we can look forward to the Olympics, 29 days in February and a yearlong national election season.

Even before the elections hit full stream, our leaders in Washington and Sacramento are continuing to confront the hard  realities of a sluggish economy, shrinking revenues and growing demand for services, with potential consequences for both Pell Grants and Cal Grants.

Cal Grants

In a surprise announcement, Governor Jerry Brown released his 2012-13 budget a week early after a copy of the proposed budget was inadvertently posted on his website. The proposed budget must close a $9.2 billion deficit. This is the fourth year of major funding cuts.

While Cal Grants have been spared major cuts for the past few years, this budget was not so generous. Major cuts were proposed, and they would affect all Cal Grant recipients, not just new awardees.

If the budget proposals take effect,

  • The maximum Cal Grant in independent colleges will be reduced to equal the amount paid at CSU campuses, which will be $5,472. This translates into a loss of $4,236 per student. The new grant would be 44% of the previous year’s award.
  • The required GPA for Cal Grant A will be raised from 3.0 to 3.25.
  • The required GPA for Cal Grant B will be raised from 2.0 to 2.75.
  • The required GPA for Transfer Entitlement will be raised 2.4 to 2.75.

Many people in the higher education community and independent colleges are forming alliances to fight these shortsighted and harmful cuts. Saint Mary’s is planning to take a major role in advocacy for Cal Grant funding.

Pell Grants

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 (also known as “Megabus”) maintains the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,550 for the 2012-2013 school year. However, a number of changes to existing student eligibility criteria were made in order to deal with a funding shortfall in the Pell Grant program. The act will:

Adjust the minimum eligibility level

Students must now qualify for at least 10% of the maximum Pell Grant in order to receive any Pell award at all. Previously, students who qualified for at least 5% of the maximum award were “rounded up” to receive 10% of the maximum award.  This rounding up has been eliminated.

Limit eligibility to six years

Students are now eligible to receive a Pell Grant for only 12 semesters instead of 18 semesters, or for 6 years instead of 9 years. This change will be effective on July 1, 2012, and will impact students during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Adjust the criteria for an automatic maximum Pell grant

The amount of federal student aid that a student may receive is calculated based on the amount that a family is expected to be able to contribute to the student's education, based on the information on the FAFSA form. Families with an income level below a certain amount are automatically not expected to be able to contribute to their children’s college education. The new law lowered this income level to $23,000 from $30,000. This change does not prohibit students whose parents’ income is between $23,000 and $30,000 from qualifying for the maximum award.

Temporarily eliminate the interest subsidy paid on Stafford loans during the grace period

The grace period begins after a student graduates or falls below half-time enrollment. For loans made between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2014, the government will not pay the interest that accumulates during the grace period.

Local News

Film Festival

The 14th Annual California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF) is set for the week of February 10–16 at the Rheem and Orinda Theatres. The festival will open with the award-winning film “Monsieur Lazhar,” which tells the story of an insightful teacher who helps a classroom of Quebec children through a devastating loss. The movie won Best Canadian Film at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and is Canada’s official 2012 Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film. After “Monsieur Lazhar” screens at this month’s 2012 Sundance Film Festival, it will be screening at CAIFF.  Go to for details for the week's events. 

Supervisor Retiring

After 16 years of dedicated service on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, Lafayette resident Gayle B. Uilkema has announced her retirement. Congratulations, Gayle, and thank you for your service.

Tim Farley, Director
Community & Government Relations