Cal Grant students may be in for a big cut.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released his 2009-2010 budget proposal earlier this month. The proposal will change Cal Grant policy and cut all new competitive awards.
Judy Heiman, fiscal and policy analyst at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, said the cuts will affect various aspects of Cal Grant. The biggest proposed change is to not fund any new competitive awards, but students who have already received grants should not worry.
“Cal Grant will keep funding students who have [awards], but no new ones will be awarded,” she said.
There are 22,500 competitive awards given each year; half of which are reserved for community college students. Competitive grants are given to people who apply and meet certain criteria, such as a lower income and academic status.
Entitlement awards, which are automatically given to students right after high school and cover all academic fees, will not continue to cover the full amount of UC and CSU fees. Despite current and future tuition increases, the maximum award will stay at $7,542 for UCs, Heiman said.
“For the first time the governor is proposing to decouple [student fees and Cal Grant coverage],“she said. “This is a real change in policy. Students will have to pay the difference.“
Another big policy change is the level at which students are eligible for Cal Grant programs. The proposals will freeze current income eligibility limits for Cal Grant.
“Usually the limit goes up with inflation, but now it will eliminate some families. It affects about 2,000 people,” said Heiman.
Over 7,000 UC Davis students depend on Cal Grants to pay tuition, said an undergraduate financial aid representative.
Other major changes include the use of Cal Grant at private colleges and universities. The maximum amount awarded used to be $9,708, but with the proposal it will be knocked down to $8,323, said Heiman.
The University of California Student Association said they are against the decoupling and elimination of awards. UCSA President Lucero Chavez said there will be lobbying throughout the coming month.
“The governor is trying to pretty much shred the safety net of financial aid that protects low and middle income students and their families,” said Chavez. “We will be lobbying in-district in the next couple weeks; we will be talking about these issues for the next couple months.“
UC Davis‘ student government is also involved in the fight against passing this legislature. ASUCD Lobby Corps director Talia MacMath said there are plans to meet with members of the Higher Education Committee and Budget Committee, along with the Governor’s Office.
Lobby Corps also supports Assembly Bill 53, which would prohibit salary increases to state workers that fall above a certain salary range, said MacMath.
“AB 53 is important because it encourages the Regents to take certain action,” she said. “We hope it will allow a little more money [into the budget].“
MacMath also said ASUCD supports UC President Mark Yudof’s proposal to set aside more financial aid money; an increase from 33 percent to 36 percent. The increase would help cover fees for lowest income students.
Legislature still has to decide about these cuts and changes to Cal Grant, Heiman said.
“At this point it is just a proposal, but also at this point the budget situation is really bad,” she said.
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.