With graduation just a few months away for high school seniors, the reality of college costs is beginning to set in.  High school seniors and their parents can eliminate some stress and possibly lessen the financial burden of college by completing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application and applying for a Cal Grant.  Cal Grants offer cash for college that doesn’t have to be repaid!  In addition to grants, the FAFSA application may also provide an opportunity for low-interest loans.  Current college students and any adult 18 years of age or older interested in attending college may also apply to receive a Cal-Grant.

The Cal Grant program is the California Student Aid Commission’s merit- and need-based financial aid program.  In order to be eligible, there are a few simple qualifications: high school students must be seniors or recent graduates, have at least a 2.0 GPA, meet eligibility and financial requirements and submit two forms by the March 2 deadline—it’s that easy.

In order to help with the application process, the Central Coast Cal-SOAP offices at Allan Hancock College and Cuesta College are cosponsoring a series of free Cash for College Workshops to help students and parents fill out the forms.  Spanish-speaking staff will be available.  Attention high school seniors: Attending a workshop may also result in a bonus $1,000 scholarship! Workshop dates and locations are:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 2
Paso Robles High School Computer Lab/Library, 3 to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 8
Cuesta College High Tech Center, Bldg.#3400, 5 to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 9
Pioneer Valley High School Library, 3 to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 10
Nipomo High School Library, 4 to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 15
Arroyo Grande High School, Computer Lab 301, 4 to 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 16
Santa Maria High School Computer Labs, rooms 234 & 235,

3:30 to 8 p.m.

  • Thursday, Feb. 17
Righetti High School Plato Labs (rooms 621 & 622), 4 to 8 p.m.

If you want to get started with your free FAFSA application, find it at www.fafsa.ed.gov.  The Cal Grant GPA verification form is available at www.csac.ca.gov, but make sure to check with your high school counselor before you submit the form.  Since counselors are required to complete part of this form, some high schools may submit the Cal Grant GPA verification for you.

Both forms must be sent to the California Student Aid Commission and postmarked by March 2, 2011.

Those planning to attend a Cash for College workshop must bring with them the following information:

  • student’s Social Security number and driver’s license or other government-issued ID
  • parent’s Social Security number (optional)
  • parents’ federal income tax return or W-2 forms from tax year 2009 or 2010
  • records of untaxed income such as TANF, veterans benefits or Social Security benefits
  • student’s W-2 forms, pay records or records of income earned during 2009 or 2010
  • bank account records or statements
  • records of stocks, bonds and/or investments
  • business records
  • permanent residency card (if not a U.S. citizen)
  • a list of their preferred colleges

For information about the local workshops, call the Central Coast Cal-SOAP office at 922-6966 ext. 3710.  The toll free number in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties is 1-866-DIAL AHC (342-5242) ext. 3710.

For additional information about Cal Grants, log on to www.calgrants.org or call toll free 1-(888) CA-GRANT (224-7268).