SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Monday is the deadline for students to apply for Cal Grant money.
The funds come from the state and are given out each year to prospective college students.
Sacramento State student Paul Pruden said Cal Grant money's helped pay a hefty bill.
Last year, the state distributed $800 million in Cal Grants. The money can be used for books, tuition and other college expenses.
Monday is the deadline to apply, and the state schools chief said it's an important option in the down economy.
Officials said families who consider themselves solidly middle class and think their child is probably not eligible for Cal Grants are still urged to apply.
"Absolutely apply, and the deadline on March 2 is a hard deadline," said Jack O'Connell, state schools superintendent.
O'Connell said the student aid is an important lifeline for students who qualify, especially at a time when he believes the state has not kept a proper commitment to access to a college education.
"No we do not, and it's really discouraging. But we also know we're a very resilient system," said O'Connell.
Complicating the picture is the reduced number of enrollment slots. Next fall, the CSU system is expected to have 10,000 fewer spots for new students.
Tuition will also be going up. Still, there are mixed views on campus about Cal Grants as a lifeline.
"It's definitely important. If you want kids to stay in college, the money is definitely a reason that helps a lot of us stay in college," Axten said.
But Pruden said it's not make-or-break.
"I'm indifferent to it. I mean, I think if you're going to go to school, it's something to be responsible for on your own. I mean, it's nice to have government money, but I don't really look at it as their responsibility to give it to us," Pruden said.
Cal Grants top out at $9,000, $700 a year for those who are eligible. The money comes from grants, not loans, meaning it does not have to be repaid.