Advocates for student-aid were rendered speechless Thursday when the governor announced his proposed intentions to slash Cal Grants, the state’s main student aid program. Hundreds of thousands of California resident students rely on monies tied into this program, and if it is eliminated, thousands of students across the state would feel the burden of university expenses especially in light of recent fee and tuition increases that the state university systems made to account for the latest Schwarzeneggar-imposed budget cuts.
“The governor’s proposal would eliminate the 77,000 new grants awarded each year at a cost of $180 million, but that savings would eventually grow to more than $900 million as students graduated and the program was phased out." LA Times
Cal Grants are regulated by the California Student Aid Commission and funded by the state. A qualifying student enrolling in any California college, university, technical or career school can receive up $9,700 per academic year to assist in college-related expenses—tuition, housing, books and supplies, depending on the type of Cal Grant awarded. These grants are considered free money, and repayment is not required.
The purpose of the Cal Grant is to increase the number of financially underprivileged college-attending students. Statistics found in a 2007 Public Policy Institute of California Statewide Survey noted 60% of Californians believe cost is the biggest motivator when it comes to pursuing college. Seemingly, the possibility of less enrollment among low and middle income students would be imminent should the Cal Grant program be withdrawn.
Community colleges would see the biggest loss in student enrollment, being that 64% of California undergraduates attend community colleges, including low-income students, and 58% of students who attend community colleges in California are eligible for a Cal Grant. (TICAS)
Findings from an analysis done by the Institute for College Access and Success suggests, “the budget proposal currently under consideration finds that it would cut new grants to community college students by 45 percent – or about 18,500 students – this fall. In addition, 700 eligible students at the University of California (UC) would be denied a Cal Grant; 2,000 in the California State University (CSU) system; 1,200 at private nonprofit colleges; and 3,000 at for-profit career colleges. But the proposed cut will hit community college students hardest: 73 percent of the students who will be denied a new Cal Grant attend community colleges.”
The report also stated, “Eligible students at community college are less likely to receive Cal Grants than in any other sector, because they are more likely to apply in the competitive pool, which is already underfunded.”
Undoubtedly the state’s rampant budget cutting for purposes of closing the ballooning deficit will take its toll on the people of California and particularly on those who are of less opportunity. Turning a blind eye to the importance of education by augmenting financial deterrents to those who would otherwise not choose to attend is simply impolitic and could reap serious consequences for the future of the state.
“Difficult economic times require a deepened investment in education and workforce development – not cuts to this low-cost, high-impact grant program.” (TICAS)
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