Prospective college students fear proposed aid cuts in California

By Carla Rivera

Los Angeles Times

Published: Saturday, Jan. 14 2012 11:00 p.m. MST

This is not the first time the Cal Grant program has come under the budget knife. Opponents defeated several efforts by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut the program, said Diana Fuentes-Michel, director of the California Student Aid Commission, which oversees financial aid programs.

Cal State officials estimate that nearly 6,000 entering students and $36 million in financial aid could be affected. Most of these students would qualify for the university's grant program, which is funded by revenues from tuition increases.

"It puts an added strain on our institutional program, where we already have more eligible students than we can fund," said Dean Kulju, director of financial aid for Cal State.

UC officials estimate that the changes would affect 250 students next year, representing about $20 million. UC requires that all students who receive financial aid contribute up $9,400 through a combination of work and loans.

Officials said that university funds would be used to "backfill" the drop in Cal Grants but that the work/loan amount would increase.

Community college officials said they had not yet determined the impact, although many two-year students obtain the lower-level grant awards that are most likely to be affected.

Jackson, at UC Berkeley, said the proposed changes are a hot topic on students' Facebook pages. It is unfortunate, he said, that some worthy students may miss the cut.

"These requirements will have a crippling affect on minority students who are already struggling to overcome an achievement gap," he said.

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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