But demand outpaces supply

Only students who have recently graduated from high school are entitled to a Cal Grant. Low- to middle-income students must earn at least a 3.0 GPA, while very low-income students can qualify with a 2.0. (Students transferring from a community college to a four-year school have their own, separate, requirements.)

Students who have the right GPA, but have been out of school for more than two years, must apply for what are known as “competitive” Cal Grants. And that’s where things get dicey—because the state only funds a certain number each year.

Some Cal Grants come with a stipend for books and living expenses, but at $1,672, it’s just higher than the average per-year textbook cost, leaving little left over for food and rent.