Students lobby in Sacramento to save Cal Grant

Christina Osborne -- Students attend rally in Sacramento to protest reduction of private school Cal Grants.
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Christina Osborne -- Students attend rally in Sacramento to protest reduction of private school Cal Grants.Students Christina Osborne and Shane Paulson joined hundreds of student activists in Sacramento on March 7 to protest the reduction of Cal Grants for private university students.

The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities lobbied the Assembly Budget Committee on Education and Finance with the Cal Grant Restoration Campaign in an attempt to stop Governor Jerry Brown’s new education budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Last year’s California deficit totaled $26.6 billion deficit, so these cuts, according to state officials, are part of an attempt to balance the budget.

Students from private and nonprofit organizations appeared before state legislators to personally express how a reduction in grant awards would affect their ability to continue their education.

The Cal Grant award reduction is part of Brown’s proposed plan to reduce the budget deficit.

Shane Paulson, CBU representative and Cal Grant recipient, appeared before legislator Paul Cook to tell his story.

“Success in today’s world requires an education and that education requires money. For many students, such as myself, this education would be impossible without the aid of scholarships and grants,” Paulson said.

Paulson expressed his sense of outrage, given that Cal Grants were on the chopping block in private sector schools. State school grants are pegged to match tuition.

“I wanted to fight this to show the injustice of this action,” Paulson said. “I know how special CBU is… I want to see as many people as I can come here.”

The proposed cuts were to reduce the top award amount by almost half, from $9,708 to $5,477.

Even though the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance voted the proposal down, eventual cuts are inevitable, according to Amy Gwilt, financial aid special coordinator.

Gwilt explained that, though students made an impact at the capitol, the state has to make some cuts. Legislators have limited power to affect the state budget. As little as 12 to 15 percent of the budget is adjustable.

While cuts are inevitable, slashing only private and non-profit schools’ funding seems inequitable, according to Gwilt. Cutting private Cal Grants will have wide-reaching consequences for individual students and the state’s economy, as well.

“If they cap the U.C. schools’ enrollment and students cannot get in, where are they going to go?” Gwilt said.

In a healthier economy, students would enroll in private schools, but if the Cal Grants are reduced, they will be forced to take out additional student loans.

Gwilt said it is becoming more common for students to shoulder massive student loans. Amassing large debt causes problems as students attempt struggle to pay them off and qualify for other types of loans.

Gwilt said cutting the average student’s ability to attend private schools impacts the community and stifles campus diversity.

“When you cut funding and only the more affluent students can attend, the campus diversity suffers.” Gwilt said. “We want a culturally rich campus. We do not want only the affluent to be able to afford college.”

April 19 marks the Senate Budget Subcommittee Hearing in which grants.

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