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College grants may be chopped

Posted: May 29, 2009 9:48 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
A proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to eliminate new Cal Grants to undergraduate college students is facing criticism from local colleges.

“You’re directly affecting the low-income, poor students who are trying to get an education,” said Gary Edwards, director of financial aid at The Master’s College.

The governor’s most recent proposal involves eliminating new awards for all Cal Grant programs, according to the California Student Aid Commission. The proposal would continue Cal Grant funding for eligible students for the 2009-10 school year, the commission said.

Cal Grants are a source of needs-based financial aid given to undergraduate students who meet academic and financial requirements.

As a grant, the money does not need to be paid back.

At The Master’s College, about 200 students, or 20 percent of the student body, receive Cal Grants.

“It’s the difference between them coming and not coming,” Edwards said.

College of the Canyons awarded a little over $320,000 in Cal Grants for the 2007-08 school year, which translates to financial aid to about 300 students, said Tom Bilbruck, director of financial aid.

A Cal Grant can be worth up to $9,708 per year.

“We really oppose the elimination of the program. California Community College students are the greatest recipients of the Cal Grants,” Bilbruck said. “It impacts us the hardest.”

For Edwards, the proposal sends a message to future college students.

“You’re basically telling them, ‘Your access to higher education, we’re taking it away from you,’” Edwards said.

At The Master’s College, a decision to eliminate Cal Grants would create a lasting ripple effect.

“If he does cut it, we won’t be able to recover from it,” he said.

Edwards would rather see the governor find a balance between reductions and Cal Grant funding.

“We support the governor and the things that he needs to do,” Edwards said. “We would ask that he comes more in an area of compromise rather than drastic cuts.”

Still, the plan remains a proposal that leaves colleges waiting.

“We’re waiting to get official response from the governor and legislators and nothing is finalized until the legislators agree to what the decisions will be,” Bilbruck said.


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