Students gather in Sacramento in opposition to proposed Cal Grant cut

In light of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed Cal Grant cut, Biola students gathered in Sacramento on March 7 with other college students to express disapproval.

Sarah Seman, Writer

Twenty-one Biola students spoke before Assembly members of the budget subcommittee on education finance at the state Capitol on Wednesday, March 7. The students urged the Assembly to say “No” to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $300 million cut to college grants.

Students advocate to keep Cal Grant

“We are willing to come out here to fight for what we want and need for ourselves and for our schools,” said freshman Natalie Moropoulos, one of the 834 Biola students facing a $4,000 cut in grant money.

The subcommittee voted 4-0 against the Cal Grant curtailment after listening to more than 60 advocates from across the state voice their opinion. The subcommittee will report its decision against the Cal Grant to the full committee, who will then make a recommendation to the House floor, according to the California department of finance. There are several steps beyond this, before the 2012-13 California State Budget is required by the California state constitution to be passed by the Legislature June 15.

Even after the subcommittee’s firm overthrow of the proposition, Brown does not intend to revise the budget, finance department spokesman H.D. Palmer told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The cuts would mean a $3 million loss in grant money for Biola University, according to Jonathan Choy, director of financial aid. Brown’s proposed budget includes reducing the Cal Grant awarded to those students at private for-profit and independent non-profit colleges and universities from $9,708 to $5,472 per student. These means that while schools like Pepperdine, Occidental College and Point Loma Nazarene will meet a set-backs in their financial stability, Cal Grants at the publicly run, UC and CSU schools will remain the same. Approximately 45,700 students will be impacted according to the governor’s budget summary.

“Administration has little to no impact in the way that private institutions operate,” Ian Johnson, education analyst for the department of finance, told the Assembly on Wednesday, explaining the reason behind the decision to cut finances to these particular institutions.

The reduction is part of a budget tuck that aims on closing what the legislative analyst’s office calculate to be a $9.8 billion shortfall in the 2012-13 California state budget.

AICCU directs student speech

Thirty-one colleges and universities, including Azusa Pacific University and California Baptist University, gathered in a church down the street from the state’s Capitol rotunda for the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities Day in the Capitol.

“Be brief and brilliant,” Lisa Douglass, vice president of AICCU’s external affairs, told the 200-plus students in an expository meeting Wednesday morning. AICCU speakers exhorted the lobbyists to personalize the issue and put a face on the problem because the cuts are inevitable.

“We [the state of California] were almost on the brink of a depression and we haven’t come out,” said assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, chair of the education subcommittee.

Unless the economy changes worldwide, cuts have to be made in some area of the California state budget, Bonilla told the collegiate crowd during the morning of the AICCU briefing. Child care funding is one of the areas under consideration for a financial cut, according to the the 2012-2013 budget for California’s fiscal outlook, pitting college students against a very delicate competitor.

Minority students most affected

First-generation college student and senior Giovanni Rincon joked that he is double majoring in communications and psychology to make up for the two degrees his parents never received.

“Statistically, a lot of minorities will take a hit [if Cal Grants are cut],” Rincon told Assembly fellow Carlos Molina.

Sixty percent of Cal Grant recipients are minority students, according to the AICCU. Losing the diversity of the student body is a major concern according to Todd Pulliam, senior counselor of admissions at Westmont College.

While the proposed budget attempts to save the state money, advocates protest that private universities have a higher graduation rate and take less time to complete.

“I am able to graduate on time in four years,” Gavin Kirkwood, junior communications major said, “which is a big deal compared to a lot of my friends who are going to Cal Poly or the UCs.” Kirkwood stated that most of his friends at public institutions will be graduating in five or six years, if they are lucky.

Moropoulos told Chris Corgas, an assembly fellow for Assemblymen Curt Hagman of District 60, that her only choice if she were to lose the Cal Grant would be to to go to a community college. This, she said would be a “longer, more tiring route.”

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