Over the last couple of weeks the Governor has raised the possibility that Cal Grant funding may be, essentially, decreased. Although California may be fiscally troubled, we cannot afford to cut aspects of the Cal Grant without bringing great detriment to California public education.
Threats by the Governor to change the Cal Grant program are received every year with a round of boos and anger. Oftentimes, we students overreact to cuts or increases. However, Cal Grants are not a program that can be altered negatively without removing the means to financing college for many students. A balanced budget is important, but a fair budget cannot be balanced on the backs of students.
Ensuring that the state is fiscally responsible, or that we do not spend far beyond our means, is essential to a thriving California. A New York Times columnist joked that other states love California “because it means that they can’t come in worse than 49th.” As students, we have accepted (begrudgingly, of course) fee increases, increased class sizes and numerous other cuts so that hopefully we can improve our state’s budget woes. When it comes to Cal Grant funding, however, there is no room for cuts; students are already perilously close to not being able to afford college.
According to the Los Angeles Times “[t]he most significant change [in the Cal Grant] would involve abandoning the state’s commitment to cover any rise in tuition for grant recipients.” This cut would push education, already hard to afford, to a point even farther out of reach for many. With the cost of education increasing by 10 percent and with family finances being wobbly at best, threats of cutting some Cal Grant funding are an unacceptable means to ensure that we have a fiscally responsible California.
It is so important to keep funding high for financial aid because, in most cases, students’ families might not otherwise be able to afford a UC or CSU education. By having appropriate funds available to students we promote the idea that if you work hard, you can go to college and excel.
America was built largely on the notion that we can work hard and achieve our goals. College is an almost necessary foundation for a successful future and by putting it beyond the reach of most students, we are failing to attain a society that provides, at the very least, equity of opportunity.
College is an important part of helping us grow, but, more than that, it is an important aspiration for students in high school. Requiring a 3.0 and financial need, Cal Grants are a way of giving students an incentive to work hard through high school. Cal Grants are essentially an investment in our youth, allowing students to rightly believe that if they work hard, they can attend college. Many lower income and middle class students are already forced to forgo a UC education due to cost; to put a UC, or even the cheaper CSU, farther out reach for even more students because of the state’s financial burden is a decision that could jeopardize the future of a countless number of students.
While our state has economic ups and downs, students should know that their education is not conditional upon the state’s economic ups and downs. A bad economy hurts families, to remove a program geared to the lower and middle classes would be further compounding problems for the people of California.
Recently, we have accepted budget cuts and increases in fees. With one of the best public higher education systems, at such subsidized costs, there is no fair way that students could avoid some cuts to the UC system while the rest of the state suffers.
Although we have accepted some cuts, something as essential as affordable education should be used to offset the effects of past fiscal irresponsibility on the part of many legislators. With so much resting on student aid, California cannot afford to spend freely in good times, but then want to tighten its belt with financial aid in the bad times.