|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Ventura County Star 2-25-04
Students head to Sacramento to plead against Cal Grants cuts
Juana Torres will graduate with honors from California Lutheran University this spring. The first-generation college student from Reseda hopes to attend law school in the fall to study environmental law.
First, though, she's heading to Sacramento to lobby against cuts to the financial aid program that helped send her to school.
Torres relies heavily on a Cal Grant, a form of state financial aid, to pay the $20,200 yearly tuition at CLU. Cal Grants are awarded to students who meet income and academic requirements. Eligible students attending private school can receive $9,708 a year.
Those Cal Grants are slated for 44 percent cuts, to $5,482 a year, in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2004-05 budget.
"I would not be here if it were not for the Cal Grants. It made the full difference for me" to be able to attend CLU, she said. "I think of the opportunity I was given, and I just feel like I need to tell them about it."
Torres will be one of about 75 representatives from private, nonprofit California schools participating in Cal Grant Lobby Day in Sacramento. The event was developed to promote the importance of Cal Grants for private school students.
The Cal Grant "is the only source of financial aid they get from the state. It's all about giving the financially needy student the choice," said Veronica Villalobos, director of public affairs for the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, which is coordinating the event.
In all, 24 California private schools are participating in today's event, Villalobos said. Torres is one of four CLU students and three staff members who are flying up to Sacramento to meet with legislators.
Colter Fleming, a 19-year-old sophomore business major from Aliso Viejo, said he's excited about the trip. Fleming, who holds two jobs on campus and works off-campus as well, said Cal Grants allowed him to attend a four-year college, rather than going to community college or attending no college at all. He wants his younger brother to have the same opportunity.
"I want him to be able to feel comfortable to choose a school in California and to have the same financial situation I have," Fleming said. "It feels nice not to have a financial burden when I get out of school. I won't have loans to pay back."
About 15 percent of CLU's students receive Cal Grants, said Darryl Calkins, director of admission. The amount of money is significant enough that CLU would not be able to make up the difference if the grants are cut by the 44 percent proposed, he said.
"In at least 99 percent of those cases, without the Cal Grant, they would not have been able to consider a private school," Calkins said. "We wouldn't be able to compensate for that."
The private school Cal Grants were designed to offer financially needy California students better access and more choices for college. The amount of the grants has been tied to the average amount of money the state spends to put similar students through school at a University of California or California State University campus, though it has not been increased in four years.
Private school officials say the grants help ease the burden on community colleges and public universities facing budget cuts and record enrollment demands. Also, the majority of private school students graduate in four years, compared with an average of five years in the UC and six years in the CSU systems.
That "gets students into graduate schools or into the job market that much quicker," Calkins said.
Matt Broussard, a 20-year-old sophomore mathematics major from Moorpark, said the Cal Grant allowed him to continue his education and also continue competing in sports. The honor student is a pole vaulter and runs the 400-meter on CLU's track team.
"Without the Cal Grant, I would probably have gone to a junior college,"
he said. "I work really hard in school because I was given this opportunity.
It's definitely a blessing for me."
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