Author: Haley Gray
The Financial Aid Office is organizing in opposition to potential cuts to the Cal Grants program, a California financial aid program that benefits 305 Occidental students with a total of $2.99 million in aid. Should the legislation in support of these cuts pass, some 300 students would see their Cal Grant pared down from $9,708 per year to $5,472 starting in 2012-13 year, a total $1.29 million loss for Occidental students.
Working with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU), Occidental is campaigning against the cuts. The college sent out letters to Cal Grants recipients, their parents and alumni recipients of the award, asking them to join in the fight against the cuts in the form of petition-signing and letter-writing, in which students and alumni explain how the award has benefited them and their education. The school plans to use these stories to appeal to Governor Brown.
“[My Cal Grant] has made it possible for me to attend a university. Without aid I’d be in over my head with student loans and would probably be a slave to them for the rest of my life,” an Occidental Cal Grant recipient (sophomore) said, who preferred to remain anonymous.
The Governor proposed the cuts as part of his plan to shrink next year’s state budget by $9.2 billion. After back-and-forth amongst legislators and the rejection of other cuts to the Cal Grants program, the only piece of the program still being debated is the $9,708 grant available to qualifying students at private universities, which accounts for six percent of the total Cal Grant budget. Alongside these cuts, an increase in Cal Grants to students already receiving tuition aid at state universities to cover their living expenses has been proposed.
“It doesn’t make fiscal sense to do this,” said Director of Financial Aid and former Cal Grant recipient Maureen McRae, explaining that it is cheaper for the state to educate students at private institutions and that Cal Grant recipients at private institutions actually receive less aid from the state over all than recipients attending state universities.
While the California Assembly decidedly rejected the cuts, the matter has yet to be settled. The California Senate is scheduled to vote on the issue on April 19, at which point the college will re-assess its strategy to advocate for the continuation of the $9,708 grant.
“There have been threats to the Cal Grants anytime there have been budget issues,” McRae said. What’s different and worrying this time, she said, is that the cuts are being proposed by a liberal Democrat, not a fiscally conservative Republican.
“What we’re hearing is that its a political volleyball,” McRae said. “But we have to keep fighting.”
The Cal-Grant program is, in fact, rooted partly in the history of Occidental. Former Occidental President Aurthur G. Coons and former Occidental Director of Admissions Arthur Marmaduke were instrumental to the creation of the program, formerly known as the California State Scholarship.
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