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Cal Grant Funding Cuts Rejected After Students, Faculty Protest In Sacramento

First Posted: 03/08/2012 7:18 am Updated: 03/08/2012 2:22 pm

A controversial proposal from Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown to slash grant funding for private school students was defeated on Wednesday, after students and faculty rallied at the capitol building in Sacramento.

An Assembly subcommittee voted 4-0 to reject the cuts to Cal Grants, an income-based financial aid program, after hearing testimony from students. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Democrat, said Brown would have to "find the cuts somewhere else. We're drawing a line."

In an effort to tackle California's $9.2 billion budget deficit, Brown proposed to chop $301.7 million from Cal Grants -- reducing the maximum grant from $9,708 to $5,472.

Cal Grants go to students coming from families making less than $50,000 a year. According to the California Student Aid Commission, Cal Grant recipients tend to be minorities. For students getting Cal Grants at the University of Redlands, for example, 51 percent are students of color.

Many people are worried the proposal would force students to drop out.

"To put this into perspective, such a cut would impact 23 percent of the undergraduate student body in our College of Arts & Sciences. We already provide more than $40 million in financial aid out of our annual budget to approximately 90 percent of these students and there is no more room in our budget to cover additional aid," James R. Appleton, president of the University of Redlands, told The Huffington Post.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the state Department of Finance told the San Diego Union-Tribune they've seen "a dramatic increase over the last eight years" in the number of Cal Grant participants and the cost. "In 2004-5, it was $688 million," Palmer said. "In 2012-13, it will be approximately $1.6 billion."

"Without my Cal Grant, I wouldn't be able to afford Redlands," Victoria Baker, a student at the University of Redlands, said in a statement to The Huffington Post. Baker claimed without the grant, she would've had "to work at two or three jobs to support myself" on top of school.

The presidents of these private nonprofit colleges took to writing editorials in newspapers around California. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, came out against cuts to Cal Grants last month, saying the state was pricing students out of higher education.

"If we keep cutting higher education funding and increasing the cost of getting a degree," Newsom said, "students are guaranteed not to complete a degree because we have priced them out of public education and told them they are not worth our support."

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