Tag Archives: Cal Grants

Improving Cal Grants

Reforming Crucial Access Program for Higher Education

by Brian Leubitz

CalGrants, in their current form, have been around since the beginning of the last decade. So hopefully in that time we have learned a thing or two about works and what needs work. Back in 2004, the California Student Aid Commission looked at the new program and their report included some interesting numbers at the time:

In 2001-02, 61 percent of the Competitive Cal Grant recipients were under 25 years of age – a younger than anticipated recipient pool. After consultation with segmental representatives, the Commission adjusted the selection criteria to allow extra consideration for older, late-entry students. In 2002-03, 35 percent of the Competitive Cal Grant recipients were under 25 years of age.

In 2001-02, the majority (81 percent) of the Competitive Cal Grant recipients were from  families with annual incomes below $24,000. In 2002-03, 84 percent of new recipients had incomes under $24,000.

CalGrants were designed to facilitate access to higher education for older students as well as lower income students. And when available, they serve that purpose. However], considering the big cuts to the program over the last few years, the goals for the program may have been ratcheted down a notch. But, that is not to say that we can’t improve the system. Over the next week, a group of legislators will be highlighting their reform proposals to the system. Here are a few of those highlights:

  • AB 1241 – Weber (D-San Diego) – Extending Eligibility to 4 years after high school for Cal Grant A & B
  • AB 1285 – Fong (D-San Jose) – Increasing eligibility for first-year students
  • AB 1287 – Quirk-Silva (D-Orange County) – Decreasing paperwork for renewing Cal Grants
  • AB 1364 – Ting (D-SF) – Sets minimum Cal Grant B at $5900 for 2014-2015, increasing by California CPI
  • These changes all go a step towards making higher education more attainable, but ultimately, we need to increase funding to CalGrants to widen the breadth of the program’s success. Beyond our natural resources, businesses come to California for the extraordinary skilled labor that we have, much of that thanks to our higher ed system. Investing in our labor force means a stronger economy in the future.

    Actual Votes: Votes Aren’t There For Cuts

    While Willie Brown reads tea leaves, actual votes are taking place in Sacramento.  And the budget conference committee, in the end, rejected cuts to Cal Grants and Hastings College that the Governor requested.

    California took a multimillion-dollar step backward Friday in cutting its budget.

    Assembly and Senate members in a budget conference committee balked at derailing the Cal Grant program of college aid or stripping Hastings College of the Law of nearly all its state funding.

    By rejecting the two proposals by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, the committee created a new $235 million headache in its bid to fix a gaping fiscal hole.

    The panel is rushing to balance the state’s recession-wracked budget by curing a projected $24.3 billion shortfall.

    Republicans actually claimed they were against eliminating Cal Grants but wanted to find additional offsets in the budget.  But in the end, they voted to get rid of every aid grant for 77,000 low- and middle-income California students who want to attend an institution of higher learning.  You would think that the Democrats could do something with that.

    With respect to Hastings College, the budget committee averted what could have been a costly disaster.

    Schwarzenegger’s Hastings proposal would have eliminated about $10.3 million in state funding for the University of California law school, leaving it with only $7,000 in general fund support and $153,000 from lottery revenue.

    Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, argued Friday that the cut was much deeper than those targeting other UC programs and would raise Hastings’ annual tuition from $28,600 to about $36,600.

    Leno said the cut could launch a costly court fight over terms of the law school’s creation, which called for Judge S.C. Hastings to donate $100,000 to support the campus – and for the state to pay his heirs that sum, plus interest, if the state ever abandoned its financial support.

    Leno said the governor is attempting to “privatize” the law school, and if the Hastings heirs sued, the state could wind up owing more from 130 years of accumulated interest than it could save from its budget-cutting proposal.

    Seriously, did anyone in the Governor’s office even think about the possibility of paying 130 YEARS’ WORTH of accumulated interest on a $100,000 contribution in order to save $10 million, and how those numbers do not compute?

    I think you can see where this goes.  The conference committee is not nearly in the mood to accept the most extreme of the Governor’s proposals – I don’t think they’ll tell those AIDS activists in the streets that they can no longer get their drugs, for example.  And then we’ll have a fairly large remaining gap after the committee’s work is done.  The first pot of money the budget committee will attack will be the absurdly large $4.5 billion reserve in the Governor’s plan, essentially ignoring the will of the people not to institute a spending cap and socking away billions of dollars in the middle of a near-depression.  After that, we’re going to see a big fight.  We need to continue to leverage grassroots pressure, wedge Republicans who are  starting to waver on a cuts-only approach, and let Democrats know that they must hold the line on things like eliminating welfare and children’s health care, and incorporate a majority-vote fee increase to make up the difference.  We’re already seeing cracks in the rush to shock doctrine California.  Let’s break it open.