Jack O'Connell: Hi, Iím Jack OíConnell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

I wanted to talk with you today to let you how you can help students get free cash for college, but the timing is absolutely critical with the March 2nd deadline rapidly approaching.

By now all of you should have received the 2007 Cal Grant College Cash Box. This kit walks you through the process of how you can help your students successfully apply for a Cal Grant.

Cal Grants provide up to $9,700 a year for higher education and the money does not have to be paid back.

The money can be used at any California Community College, California State University and University of California, and most private colleges and technical schools.

They are available to students who meet certain eligibility requirements.

Over the years, Cal Grants have helped make higher education accessible to millions of California students.

Last year, almost 300,000 students received free money for college in the form of a Cal Grant. Many of those students found out about a Cal Grant only because of their school counselor.

As school counselors, you are aware of the vital service you provide by encouraging students to further their education after high school.

But you also know that many students face financial barriers which can prevent them from obtaining that education. Cal Grants give you the power to help these students achieve their dreams and career goals.

By using the College Cash Box materials and telling students about Cal Grants you can make a tremendous difference in their lives.

Now Iíd like to introduce Diana Fuentes-Michel, Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission. Diana can tell you how easy it is to tell students about Cal Grants, and exactly how they can apply.

Diana Fuentes-Michel: Thank you, Jack. Thank you for partnering with us to make students aware of the Cal Grant program. Iíd like to quickly give you an overview of how you can help students successfully apply for a Cal Grant.

First, there are two forms graduating seniors need to fill out: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and a Cal Grant Grade Point Average Verification Form.

The GPA form confirms that students have earned a 2.0 GPA or higher to qualify for a Cal Grant, and the form must be signed by a school representative.

Second, students need to know that the deadline to apply is March 2. This is critical.

The sooner students start the application process, the better chance they have of obtaining a Cal Grant in time for the 2007 academic year.

There are also workshops conducted throughout California that can make the application process as easy as possible.

To find out where Cal Grant workshops are being conducted in your area, visit calgrants.org. You can also call 1 888 CA GRANT for more information about Cal Grants, or to request additional materials.

Jack O'Connell: Thank you again for listening, and for helping make a real difference in our studentsí lives.