Leave of absence policy for Cal Grants leaves students inconvenienced

Elizabeth Zelidon

Students that had to leave school for a year or more may be affected in the California Student Aid Commission’s new leave of absence process for Cal Grant for the 2014-15 school year.

Last year, the CSAC established a workgroup to review the Cal Grant leave of absence process. The workgroup research lead to a modified leave of absence lifetime and an addition of an adjustment code that will renew students’ Cal Grant award.

Chief of Program Administration & Services Division, Catalina G. Mistler, wrote in the operations memo to the State of California, “these operational changes will allow us to better identify student statuses and to communicate more effectively with students regarding their leave usage and the impact to their Cal Grant award offer.”

The CSAC is implementing the new leave of absence program beginning with the 2014-2015 Cal Grant Awards based on the workgroup’s recommendations. There are four main changes including: maximum leave of absence time, appeals process, less than half-time regulations and ways to establish the renewal cycle.

Students will now be allowed a maximum of four semesters or six quarters of leave within the lifetime of their Cal Grant. This is a 150 percent increase from the original lifetime of two semesters.

If students have already reached the limit, their Cal Grant award will not be withdrawn nor will they be allowed to take any additional leave.

“After three years of community college, I took a year off,” Maria Muñoz, Sacramento State social work major, said. “I didn’t have money, and I was just working to support myself, but I was then able to get my money from Cal Grant. This new rule makes me feel limited, I just have a couple of classes more and I probably don’t need to go to school a full semester. I could take that time to work and save up money but now I may be unable to.”

Previously, when students were to fall below half-time, they would have to submit leave of absence from the Cal Grant; new regulations give students a two-semester opportunity.

“Students who are enrolled less than half-time reported with the LH adjustment reason code, not to exceed 2 semesters/3 quarters for the duration of the Cal Grant award.” Mistler said. “LH codes posted before the 2014-15 academic year will not count toward the two-semester limit.”

If a student were to need more than the allotted time, the CSAC will continue to use the appeal process for excusing circumstances which would allow for more leave time.

Students looking into financial opportunities for next year can look for the 2015-16 renewal cycle, where all terms will need to be satisfied with a payment, leave of absence or transaction code from Sac State to renew the Cal Grant. If students have any questions in regards to leave of absence, call 888-224-7268 or visit csac.ca.gov