LA MIRADA, CA (03/22/2012)(readMedia)-- Abigail Rodriguez was one of twenty-five Biola University students who traveled to the capitol to lobby against the 44 percent proposed cuts to the Cal Grant program. On March 7, Biola students joined hundreds of other students from private colleges across California, representing more than 26,000 Cal Grant recipients, in the "Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities Student Day in the Capitol" rally.
Gov. Jerry Brown proposed to reduce the Cal Grant maximum award to students at California's private, nonprofit colleges from $9,708 to $5,472 - a 44 percent reduction. At Biola, 835 students currently receive Cal Grant funding. The proposed cuts would cost Biola students over $3.3 million and potentially jeopardize their education.
Students aimed to educate policymakers on the value of Cal Grant spending, hoping the state would not reduce the maximum Cal Grant for students attending nonprofit colleges like Biola. After more than 60 college students, including Biola students, addressed the Assembly's subcommittee on education finance the governor's proposal presented was rejected by all the members.
Biola senior Sheena Boyd went to lobby day not for herself, but for those who may be affected later, she said.
"If higher education is needed to thrive in this country and state, then California should do all they can to help make that happen for the future of the state and California residents," said Boyd. "I'm not only going for myself, but for people like my younger sister who will be transferring into a four-year school soon to continue her education. If education is as important as America puts on, we're going to need every opportunity to finish it, which includes affordability."
Cutting Cal Grant spending may seem like an easy way to save the state money, however, the California Legislative Analyst Office's (LAO) Budget Overview said reducing the maximum award for AICCU Cal Grant students could result in greater costs to the state if students shift enrollment from nonprofit to public institutions. Interestingly, the state's investment in financially needy students at independent nonprofit institutions is substantially lower than the total cost California absorbs when Cal Grant students attend a UC or California State school.
About the Cal Grant Program and AICCU
The Cal Grant program is a long-term, proven public-private partnership. AICCU institutions contribute more than $1.3 billion in campus-based financial aid to deserving students. Nonprofit colleges already work hard to maintain access and affordability. The erosion of state support for deserving students puts an even greater burden on nonprofit colleges that are already resource-constrained and are doing all they can to keep tuition costs down.
The current Cal Grant maximum for AICCU students needs to be the floor state support if California is going to meet its workforce demands without building new UC and California State University campuses.
Cal Grant students in the independent, nonprofit sector have greater retention and graduation rates than non-Cal Grant students at both public and nonprofit colleges (89% versus the 82% for non-Cal Grant students). Cal Grant students also graduate faster. In fact, 71% of AICCU Cal Grant students graduate in four years compared to an overall average four-year graduation rate of 60%. UC's four-year graduation rate is 54% and California State Universities is 18%.