Don’t Feel Guilty About Saving Your Cal Grants

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USF students like to make light of our image as privileged students perched figuratively—and literally—on a hilltop of private education. Even our demonstrable devotion to all things social justice can’t completely shake off the popular notion that us private school-ers have it too good. So what do we do? We poke fun at ourselves, and then proceed to shed that stereotype of privileged navel-gazers by actually going out and doing good in the world. It is, proudly, the USF way.

To be fair, though, we do have it pretty good; when California tries to make up for its constant failure to balance state finances by proposing tuition hikes for students in the UC, CSU, and community college systems, we have the luxury of being free from that worry. We also have the luxuries of reasonable class sizes, comparatively low professor-student ratios, a relatively high likelihood of registering for the classes we need, and the ability to mount a comprehensive renovation of our campus and facilities even when public colleges fight over what deep cuts to make.

For a moment though, let’s be “selfish” on an issue we can’t afford to be shy or feel guilty about: Cal grants. Governor Jerry Brown, in an attempt to accomplish the impossible—putting California’s financial house in order—has proposed a series of belt-tightening measures, which include slashing the maximum Cal grant award for students attending private universities from $9708 to $5472—a 44% cut.

The flawed wisdom that public money should favor students attending public institutions, while the “well-off” attendees of independent, non-profit colleges should pay a greater share of the cost of their education, ignores the reality of Cal Grant distribution in particular, and of need-based financial aid in general.

Recipients of Cal Grants, almost by definition, aren’t “well off”. These need-based state education grants are awarded to students from low-income, minority, and otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds. In our case, the current award maximum (which, by the way, hasn’t been raised in 12 years) contributes directly to the greatly diverse student demographic we enjoy at USF. Forcing the unaffordability of independent education on Cal Grant recipients produces the doubly negative effect of placing a Jesuit education dangerously out of reach to over 900 of our students and puts additional strain on an already overwhelmed California higher education system.

Furthermore, paying $9700 for someone to attend an independent, non-profit university costs the state less money than supporting the same student “displaced” by the grant cut into a UC or CSU. As the president of a nearby Catholic college pointed out, a someone with a Cal Grant attending a public California university gets not only the state grant, but also an automatic subsidy. This ends up costing the state over $24,000 per UC student and nearly $12,000 per CSU student.

California is under the false impression that financial aid for an institution like us is more or less superfluous. Now is no time to be apologetic about USF; let the legislature know we need those grants.

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