To enhance the ability of students to earn degrees in two or four years, California will give up to $4,000 in grants to community college students who take a full, 15-hour course load beginning this fall.
Rewarding community college students with extra money for going full-time is just one more way the state is seeking to increase the number of students who complete college in four years.
Officials note that students who take a full course load of 15 units a semester are usually on track to finish their associate degree or transfer within two years to earn a bachelor’s degree, however most community college students are enrolled part-time. For example, just 21 percent took between 12 and 14 units last fall while only eight percent enrolled in 15 or more credits. This is largely because most community college students must juggle their course work with jobs. Backers of the grant see the additional money as a way of getting students to work less and concentrate on their studies more.
In a state where minimum wage is around $11 an hour, a grant of $4,000 could be the equivalent of nearly 400 hours of work a year.
The newly approved Community Colleges Student Success Completion Grant is an expansion of two previous programs that gave students up to $2,500. However, it is important to note the money will only be available to students who receive the state’s chief financial aid tool, the Cal Grant.
According to the publication EdSource, each year only about five percent of the state’s 2.1 million community college students receive a Cal Grant despite the hundreds of thousands of students who are eligible. The report also noted the grants will not just benefit students with 15 units, it is possible that students who take between 12 and 14 units a term could see their grant funding increase from 1,000 to $1,298.