The governor kept his promise to protect higher education, but it may come at the expense of two critical state social programs.
In this month’s revision to the state budget, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to fund Cal Grants. The financial aid program provides aid to California undergraduates as well as vocation training for students and those in teacher certification programs.
Cal grants are the largest source of California state aid. Up to $9,700 per year is available to qualified students and can be applied to tuition, room and board, or books and other supplies.
In the governor’s January budget proposal, Schwarzenegger had funded the UC at approximately $370 million along with an elimination of competitive Cal Grants.
However, Schwarzenegger has changed his mind on the issue.
“While state programs and services have experienced difficult cuts over the past few years, the governor drew the line at education this year,” said the Governor’s Office Spokesperson Andrea McCarthy. “Education is vital to the future of California and the governor knows that, which is exactly why he kept his promise to increase funding for higher education and fully fund Cal Grants.”
The decision has drawn the fire of some Democratic lawmakers, particularly since the May revise calls for the complete elimination of CalWorks, the state’s welfare-to-work program and significant cuts to In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), the state’s alternative to out-of-home care for seniors and disabled children.
“The governor should not be pitting students against seniors and the disabled,” said Rep. Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) from the Eighth District.
Yamada added there must be an honest assessment of all state funded programs and that cutting CalWorks and IHSS are job-killers because of the increasing amount of people working within the two programs.
“I believe education is an important part of driving our economy, but eliminating jobs at this critical point in our recovery is not a viable plan either,” Yamada said.
During the question and answer session after the May revise, the governor offered his thoughts on the proposed cuts.
“It is painful to make those cuts,” he said. “It is painful for me and for, I think, our entire team and Cabinet Secretaries and everyone in the Capitol, that we have to create those eliminations of certain programs. But we are forced to do it.”
The University of California expressed its appreciation for the governor’s budget revisions.
“We are extremely grateful that the governor has made higher education a top priority in his proposed budget,” said Leslie Sepuka, a UC spokesperson. “We especially applaud the governor’s decision to fully fund Cal Grants, which are critical to the future of so many low- and middle- income students across the state.”
CHINTAN DESAI can be reached at email@example.com.