USF students who receive the Cal Grant state financial aid might see a reduction in money they are awarded if Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut aid for the grant is passed.
On January 5, California’s governor introduced his proposal to reduce the deficit in the state budget for 2012-2013.
The proposal contains provisions that would reduce Cal Grant amount given to students at independent, non-profit California colleges and universities from the maximum of $9,708 to $5, 472, a decrease of 44 percent. The proposal would also raise the grade point average (GPA) requirements for both Cal Grant A and B. The GPA requirement for Cal Grant A, which students in private universities and state schools receive, would be raised from a 3.0 to a 3.25. The GPA requirement for Cal Grant B, primarily awarded to students in city college, would increase from a 2.0 to a 2.75.
According to a report released by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) on December 5, 2011, Cal Grant expenditures are expected to reach 1.5 billion this year—an increase of 85 percent from the past four years. As of 2011-12, there were about 244,000 Cal Grant recipients and an overall $1,506,000 in funding.
USF Students Depend on Cal Grant
Currently, 70 percent of USF students rely on some form of financial aid.
Hector Martinez, a first year Business Administration student said USF was one of his top college choices because of the generous financial aid package he was awarded.
“The Cal Grant is something that has been there for me this first year and something that I have relied on. If that was to be taken away then I would have to find new ways to try to get that money, and that would be in the way of looking for more scholarships or having to work. That would make it more difficult for me to reach my goals here at USF.”
Martinez, who aspires to be a company CEO, said he would try to continue his studies at USF despite the challenges that might present if his Cal Grant award were reduced or taken away.
“I have the will to keep struggling here no matter what it would take but it would be really difficult to continue without the help from the Cal Grant.”
If the Governor’s proposed budget were to pass, 943 current USF students would be affected, not including the new incoming students that would have been Cal Grant recipients.
In addition, if the proposal is approved, students attending private schools may no longer be able to afford a private education. If more of these students chose to attend public universities, overpopulation levels at UC’s and CSU’s would increase significantly. Subsequently, state expenses would increase because California would pay more to subsidize them. This counteracts the governor’s attempt to reduce the state deficit.
At USF, the university recently approved a tuition increase of 3.9 percent for the 2012-2013 academic year. However, the university has also said it will increase its efforts to help students finance their education at USF by providing $58 million of its own funds in financial assistance, an increase of 7.8 percent from last year.
Dean and Director of Enrollment and Financial Services Susan Murphy said she recognizes Cal Grant recipients come from low and middle income families, and that the aid they receive from the Cal Grant program makes it possible for them to attend USF and other California universities.
“If the state budget passes with any of the proposed Cal grant changes, our goal will be to keep Cal Grant recipients enrolled and on track to graduation,” Murphy said.
One of the ways USF plans to increase the amount of financial aid it awards is through alumni donations. The Interim Alumni Relations Director Cortés Saunders Storno said she is planning on contacting alumni who benefitted from Cal Grant assistance during their time at USF.
The university is also collaborating with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) to bring students to a Save the Cal Grant rally at the state capital on Wednesday March 7.
Director of Financial Aid Services and Operations Norman Caito sent an e-mail to the USF community on February 14, urging students to contact state legislators and the governor to avoid cuts to the Cal Grant. He also encouraged current Cal Grant recipients to contact him, since they will have priority in the transportation USF will provide for the state rally.
Hoping Cal Grant recipients share their stories outside the governor’s office in Sacramento Caito said, “We have every intention of having our voices be heard, and impacting any decisions that are made regarding these cuts before they are even voted on.”
Possible revisions to the state budget are expected in May. The legislature will approve the final state budget in early June.
USF Students Advocate Cal Grant Assistance
Caito spoke to ASUSF senate two weeks ago, and is collaborating with ASUSF Senate adviser Greg Walcott and members of student government to increase awareness about this issue on campus.
Student of Color Representative Sascha Rosemond is participating in the committee working to address this issue. She said one of her major concerns is that cuts to the Cal Grant would decrease access students of color have to obtain a college education, especially at private universities.
“If people want to continue to see diverse campuses, and believe that everyone deserves the right to a private education, then they should support the cause,” Rosemond said.
ASUSF president Lex Wochner said he feels personally affected by the threat of Cal Grant cuts because he has friends that are Cal Grant recipients.
“Imagine losing your best friend because they had to move home and discontinue their education. Now imagine having never had the opportunity to meet them in the first place. This may sound dire, but this is the reality of what these cuts could potentially mean for us as students,” Wochner said.
To find your legislator’s contact information visit http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html
Cal Grant recipients interested in attending the Save the Cal Grant rally Wednesday March 7 should contact Norman Caito at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange transportation.