Cal Grants & Pell Grants at Community College

Not sure how to handle federal and state financial aid if you are attending community college? I’m no financial aid advisor (and this should not be construed as legal or financial advice), but here are some resources to help you get started:

Cal Grants

If you are awarded Cal Grants and you are attending community college instead of a 4-year college, you may need to take action to preserve the financial aid award.

Cal Grant A awards are automatically placed into “Community College Reserve” status for up to two years. If you plan to stay at community college past two years, you MUST request a one-year extension with the California Student Aid Commission (Cal Grant A can only be in reserve for a maximum of three years).

Cal Grant B can be used while attending community college. But remember you will only get Cal Grant B for a maximum of FOUR YEARS. If you anticipate spending more than two years at community college and/or more than two years to complete your degree after you transfer, you may want to consider requesting a “Leave of Absence” in your WebGrants 4 Students account (find instructions here) to save your Cal Grant B for after you transfer (your Cal Grant B has a ticking clock and will expire after FOUR YEARS from your original award date; a “Leave of Absence” request pauses the clock temporarily). Be cautious when requesting “Leave of Absence” though, “Leave of Absence” can only be used for a maximum of FOUR SEMESTERS OR SIX QUARTERS during the life of the award.

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Pell Grants

Pell Grants are available for up to 12 semesters (approximately six years). To determine how much of your award you have used, visit Calculating Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility Used.

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Borrowing After You Transfer

Do NOT assume that you should just take out loans to pay for college and everything will work out. The government, colleges, and private lenders are NOT taking the time to educate you on how to manage your money or explain how crushing student loan debt could ruin your life. Loans are too easy to take out and the interests add up too quickly (especially for unsubsidized or private loans). Federal student loans will follow you for life and not to be taken lightly (you will carry the debt until you die because student loans typically cannot be discharged through bankruptcy). This is further complicated by predatory student loan servicers that are taking advantage of borrowers and contributing to skyrocketing student loan default rates (find a 2019 video here that offers a clear, comprehensive explanation of the problem and a 2024 update here – please note both videos contain explicit language); some states have begun addressing the issue and California students are now protected by the California Student Borrower Bill Of Rights.

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