Several University of La Verne students and officials including President Devorah Lieberman met with state legislators last month in Sacramento to protest another cut in Cal Grants.
The event, called “A Day in the Capitol,” was hosted by the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and allowed affected students to lobby for the protection of Cal Grants.
“It’s really a day for students to tell their story,” said Diane Anchundia, director of financial aid. “It’s really the students’ stories that’s going to hopefully sway the vote to not cut the Cal Grants this year.”
An 11 percent reduction in Cal Grant funding scheduled to take effect in the 2014-2015 school year is the most drastic cut in recent years, equalling about $1,000 less per student.
Cal Grants play an important part in many private school students’ financial aid packages; 46 percent of La Verne’s entering class for the 2013-2014 school year received Cal Grant funding.
The proposed cuts would only affect incoming freshmen at private colleges like ULV.
“It was wonderful to have the group of students that went to tell their story, even though it’s not going to directly affect them,” Anchundia said. “It’s going to affect the generations to come: their brothers, their sisters, their cousins.”
For some students, the extra aid from Cal Grants served as the deciding factor in where to go to school.
“My family doesn’t necessarily come from a means of wealth,” said junior political science major Colin Fisk, who participated in the event. “The extra money that was invested in my schooling by the state of California was something that gave me an opportunity to go to school to learn and made it so I didn’t have to worry so much about how I was going to pay for it after I was done with school.”
The 100-plus students from private colleges across the state and their appeals were positively received by legislators and their staff members.
“They recognize the importance of higher education and its role in the path that took them to Sacramento and brought them to Capitol Hill,” Fisk said.
Although money is an important part of the college equation, cutting the Cal Grant fund is about more than money for some students.
“When they start cutting higher education, specifically for private schools, it sends the message that they’re not encouraging students to go to private schools anymore,” Fisk said.
Aside from visits to various legislator offices, the day in Sacramento also featured a lunch briefing hosted by Lieberman.
“I was filled completely with pride when talking about the University of La Verne,” she said. “I was so proud to talk about being a student advocate and to appreciate that these funds are coming from the state’s tax payers, and so they’re helping you be a college entrant, a graduate, and helping students contribute to the economy themselves when they graduate.”
She said her keynote speech helped dispel some perceptions about private universities.
“They had a perception that students that attend private institutions come from families that have wealth,” she said before emphasizing the number of Cal Grant recipients at the University of La Verne.
“When I said that, they were shocked,” she said.
The 11 percent Cal Grant reduction is already scheduled in the state budget, but Lieberman and many other administrators encourage students to reach out to legislators with their stories.
“The legislators listen to the students,” she said. “I would encourage any student, staff, anybody who wants to take the initiative to protect us to do it.”
Students and faculty can also advocate for Cal Grants through an online petition urging state legislators to reconsider the next year’s decrease. The petition is available at www.change.org/petitions/governor-brown-ca-legislature-protect-our-cal-grant.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.