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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Proposed budget plan takes a toll on Cal Grants

Under a newly proposed budget plan by California Governor Jerry Brown, many students would be left with little or no Cal Grant aid.
In Brown’s revised budget plan, known as the May Revise, about 37 percent of students who plan to apply to a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) in the fall of 2013 will be affected.
“Student eligibility toward Cal Grants would be based on Pell Grant eligibility,” said Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) Diana Fuentes-Michel.

The revision proposes that Cal Grants, which has provided over $1.6 billion in aid to students, be connected to Pell Grants. This would make the amount that a student qualifies for in Cal Grants about the same in Pell Grants.

Many oppose this, as Pell Grants eligibility considers familial factors such as income and family size, while Cal Grants considers a student’s grade point average. This year, the maximum award that can be received in Pell Grants is $5,500, a $690 dollar increase from last year. The maximum Cal Grant that can be received for UC students is $12,192 and $5,472 for students at a CSU.

“This proposal changes the way we determine financial need and the governor is proposing in addition to the proposal he made in January to change GPA requirements as well as changing which institutions are eligible to participate in the Cal Grant program,” Fuentes-Michel said. “The Commission was concerned with other ways the budget problem could be addressed and basically feels that there are other options that should be considered.”

According to Fuentes-Michel, the University Office of the President  (UCOP) explained that the changes would affect less than 500 UC students who are currently in school as well.

CSAC announced that the commission had voted to oppose the proposed revision in a May 18 press release.

“Cal Grant students whose families incomes are $50,000 a year for a family of four would lose their Cal Grant award. This proposal would eliminate access for nearly 25,000 students,” stated commissioner Michele Siqueiros of the Campaign for College Opportunity in the release.“These students are the most financially needy students who, without Cal Grant aid, would not be able to attend college.”

The Commission announced that they are working toward opposing the proposal to align the Cal Grant program with federal methodology, the proposal to raise GPA requirements for students for Cal Grant eligibility and  the proposal to reduce the amounts of Cal Grants for students at private colleges and universities.

“We agree with the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), if we are going to make this major change, we should do so looking very carefully at all the issues that are affected in terms of… what their [students’] reward levels are and how it will impact their financial aid package,” Fuentes-Michel said.

TICAS has announced that if the revise is implemented, six percent of students would no longer be eligible and 31 percent would have their eligibility reduced.

According to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse, UCOP is opposed to the change.

“These latest proposals represent a real threat to students and to the university. In the past, UC has adopted a ‘share the pain’ approach, whereby those who suffered cuts in grant money would not be disproportionately burdened. All financial aid recipients, in other words, would have to work a little more, for example,” Converse said in an e-mail interview.

Fuentes-Michel said that CSAC is concerned with affecting the least number of students possible if budget cuts are necessary.

“The proposal is counterproductive and we need to look into ways that will be the best way to invest in education and students.”

The legislature will decide on Brown’s budget by June 15.

MUNA SADEK  can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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