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California scholarships, student loans and grants

How to get your college tuition and fees covered in the Golden State.

Updated

Some 50% of college graduates in California leave school with student debt. That’s due in part to California’s generous Cal Grant Program that covers a good chunk of tuition and fees for residents attending qualifying in-state schools.

Does California offer college scholarships?

Yes. The state offers one scholarship to residents: the need-based Middle Class Scholarship.

Middle Class Scholarship

The Middle Class Scholarship funds up to 40% of your tuition costs at the University of California or California State University. The award amount you qualify for depends on your financial need as well as other scholarships and grants you already received.

Top California grants for school

The most common way to fund your education is through a Cal Grant. Other options for students require meeting specific criteria.

Cal Grant Program

The Cal Grant Program is three separate grants that are further divided into type A and B. You don’t need to complete separate applications to be considered for these grants — you’re automatically in the running when you complete the FASFA or California Dream Act Application.

The state adds a special Cal Grant C Award for students attending an occupational or technical program.

Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award

While high school seniors won’t find state-funded scholarships in California, the Cal Grant High School Entitlement Award gives high school students with financial need and decent grades a way to fund their education.

Cal Grant Competitive Award

The Cal Grant Competitive Award is limited to about 26,000 students a year. Selections are based on your financial need as determined by the FASFA as well as your GPA. Only applicants who aren’t eligible for the Cal Grant Entitlement Award can qualify.

Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award

The Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award is designed for students who plan on transferring from a California community college to a four-year university. To qualify, you must be under 28 years old and transfer directly from your community college without a gap year.

Cal Grant C Award

The Cal Grant C Award is designed for students enrolled in a technical or occupational program at a qualifying California school. Fewer than 8,000 awards are offered each year, though select fields get priority points in the selection process. Learn if your program is on the Cal Grant C Priority Occupational List at the California Student Aid Commission website.

Unlike with other Cal Grant options, you must submit a separate application after filling out the FASFA or California Dream Act Application if you’re eligible for the award.

Other California college grants

California offers more than the Cal Grant, but you must meet strict requirements and complete a separate application for consideration.

  • California Chafee Grant for Foster Youth. If you were in foster care between the ages of 16 and 18, you may qualify for an annual award of up to $5,000. Use it for college expenses or technical training, even if the program is in another state.
  • Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant Program. If you’re a dependent or spouse of a law enforcement officer who was killed or disabled in the line of duty, you may qualify for the LEPD Grant. Award amounts match the Cal Grant, and applications are accepted throughout the academic year.
  • California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program. The CNG EAAP is awarded to active members of the California National Guard, State Military Reserve or Naval Militia to help you pursue education that improves your skills and abilities.
  • California Community College Promise Grant. Formerly known as the Board of Governs Fee Waiver (BOGFW) the CCCPG waives the enrollment fee for California residents attending a community college in the state.

Do I qualify for scholarships and grants if I go to school outside of California?

No, with one exception. The Chafee Grant for Foster Youth allows students to attend school outside of California. But the limited number of other California grants and scholarships available must be used at an in-state institution.

Other ways to pay for school in California

Don’t qualify for a California state-funded scholarships and grants? Consider alternatives to help cover the cost of attending school.

Federal and college scholarships and grants

The federal government offers grants and scholarships based on both merit and need. Your school might also have its own financial aid packages to offset the cost of attendance. For example, Stanford offers a generous University Scholarship and work-study program to students who demonstrate financial need.

Contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss your options.

Undocumented? The California Dream Act lets you reap the same benefits as residents

If you’ve attended a California high school for three years, you’re able to to pay in-state tuition, apply for CalGrants, UC Grants and other state financial aid opportunities — even if you don’t have a Social Security number. To apply, fill out an application based on the FAFSA on the California Student Aid Commission website. The deadline for most financial aid available through this program is March 2.

Federal and private student loans

Student loans can bridge the gap when scholarships and grants fall short. We recommend applying for federal loans first — they tend to come with lower interest rates and more flexible repayment plans than private financing.

Need additional funding? Compare your private student loan options, paying special attention to deferment and forbearance options each lender offers.

Compare private student loan providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
SoFi Student Loans
680
Full cost of attendance
1.90% to 11.76% with autopay
Undergraduate financing with no late fees to US citizens with good credit.
Earnest Student Loans
650
Cost of attendance
Starting at 1.24%
Undergrad and graduate financing with a nine-month grace period.
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
675
$200,000
4.092% to 8.609% with autopay
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
CommonBond Private Student Loans
700
$500,000
3.31% to 9.74%
Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
Edvisors Private Student Loan Marketplace
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Quickly compare private lenders for your school and apply for the right student loan.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Explore scholarships, student loans and grants in other states

Bottom line

California might offer an abundance of scholarships and grants. But what’s there can help residents cover tuition and fees at qualifying schools.

Need help paying for books and living expenses? Learn more in our guide to college financing.

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