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financial_aid.JPGA bill announced Tuesday aims to make the labyrinthine college application season a little easier for high school seniors.

Seeking to increase access to the state's Cal Grants scholarship program, AB 2160 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would require high schools to electronically submit grade point averages for all graduating seniors to the California Student Aid Commission.

The two-step Cal Grant application, administered by the student aid commission, requires students to fill out the federal student aid form and verify their GPA. Thousands of applications are rejected each year because that second step is not completed.

"We want to do everything possible to streamline that process," Ting said at a press conference, where he was joined by co-author state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. "We're trying to take one more barrier out of their way."

While many high schools already submit GPAs electronically to the student aid commission, few do so for all graduating seniors and some do not submit GPAs at all.

According to the California Student Aid Commission, more than 230,000 high school seniors completed the financial aid form in 2013, about 50,000 of which were not considered because their GPAs could not be verified. Another 35,000 students had to verify their GPA through an extra paper form.

Orville Jackson, a researcher at The Education Trust-West, said participation in the Cal Grant program is higher at schools that submit electronic GPA verification for all graduating seniors: 71 percent in those districts, as compared to 56 percent elsewhere.

This in turn boosts post-secondary success, Jackson added. "The simple act of filling out a financial aid application increases students' chances of going to college and finishing college."

The Cal Grant application deadline for 2014 is March 2.

PHOTO: Prospective student Eva Vega, left, is counseled by financial aid technician Sonia Diaz during a college workshop at the Mexican Consulate office in Sacramento on February 1, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:22 p.m. to include the number of applications that were not considered because of a lack of GPA verification.


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