Jason D. Cox
The state legislature has not yet cut funding from the Cal Grants program, but with the legislature looking to trim public schools, California State Universities and other institutions in the state, it is certainly in danger.
“We’re hoping that, as far as the governor is concerned, that education is a priority,” Director of Financial Aid Leatha Webster said.
Last year there were 700 new and returning students, who were helped financially by Cal Grants, which equals approximately $6.4 million.
This year there are 294 entering traditional undergraduate freshmen with an official Cal Grants totaling $2,609,442.
There are 521 entering traditional undergraduate freshmen with an estimated Cal Grants totaling $4,511,349. This group of students appear to be eligible, but their official eligibility has yet to be determined.
As the state legislature continues to develop a budget that will affect the $27.6 billion deficit, the Cal Grants’ funding has been left intact.
Adjustments have been made to the Cal Grant requirements such as the staying power of a student’s eligibility. It used to be that once a student qualified for a Cal Grant, they were eligible for the next four years; now, a student must qualify every year.
Senate Bill 70 made strategic cuts to the Cal Grants, including stricter rules regarding the qualification of families at a certain income level, as well as denying Cal Grant benefits to higher education institutions whose students have a high rate of default.
At this point, there are essentially three potential outcomes: the state cuts all Cal Grant funding, the state does not allow new students to take advantage of Cal Grants or the state leaves Cal Grants alone completely.
Cal Grants can yield up to $11,124 a year for a student who needs to pay for college expenses at qualifying California colleges.
According to Provost Greg Dewey, ULV students receive approximately $7 million in aid each year. If the state legislature were to cut the Cal Grant off completely, ULV students would not receive this money in aid and the University would not receive this money in tuition.
Dewey went on to say that, even if the legislature only partially cut funding for Cal Grant, by denying Cal Grant to any new students, the impact on ULV would still be between $1-$2 million.
“We are not going to abandon the students,” Dewey said. “We are carefully monitoring the situation. And we have a budget in place, but are holding some funds back in reserve so that we can help the students who need it.”
One way the University may be able to help is by supplementing the work study program with some of its own funds in addition to what is available via the Federal government.
“It’s absolutely critical to talk about how important Cal Grants are so the legislature know the consequences of cutting them,” Jonathan Brown, president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, said.
Brown went on to say that, while he is convinced that these cuts are inevitable, he believes that in the next one or two years, the state will look carefully at the Cal Grant policies.
When this happens, it is important that the focus be on the policies and not on how low fees can go.
While there is no definite time to expect the new budget, Brown estimated the budget could be completed in the next five or six weeks.
Jason D. Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.