Thank you to all who wrote letters and emails, made telephone calls and visited lawmakers. Thank you Governor Brown. Thank you legislators. Praise God!
The proposed 11 percent cut to the Cal Grant has been repealed for the 2015-2016 state budget signed June 16. As California’s higher education financial aid program, Cal Grant makes it possible for thousands of students to attend colleges and universities each year. The cut would have affected grants to students at private institutions only, limiting their ability to choose the education they feel is best for them.
About 40 percent of FPU’s traditional undergraduate students, and many of our bachelor’s degree completion students, receive the Cal Grant, in amounts up to just over $9,000. Though students don’t repay Cal Grants, the money isn’t free: recipients must have a high school GPA of around 3.0, high enough to predict future success, and maintain good grades in college. There are also maximum income levels for families. If the requirements are not met, the application is late or the GPA is not submitted by the high school on time, the grant is not awarded.
The reduction remained in the budget until the last hour. Those in the know said the cut was a done deal. About 10 years ago we suffered such cuts. It cost students—our neediest students—and it cost the university. Somehow we made it through, and the Cal Grant was eventually restored. Even so, the amount hasn’t gone up for many years, while cost to operate the university, and so tuition rates, have continued to rise (for us less than most).
Not everyone lost hope. The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU), to which Fresno Pacific University belongs, led the effort to the repeal of the proposal. Read the AICCU article here.
A group of our students called Friday Night Live, led by FPU graduate and former board member Yamilette Rodriguez, organized a letter-writing and social media campaign as well as a press conference with Assembly Member Henry T. Perea in AIMS Hall. They also visited Sacramento and spoke to elected officials and their staffs. By their actions these students demonstrated the benefits educated citizens bring to the state and the value of Cal Grants. Find out more about the event here.
Cal Grants for students at independent institutions are a good deal for taxpayers. It costs the state much less to award Cal Grants to students to use at private colleges or universities than it does to send them to state institutions, where the public pays all the bills. And private institutions, especially non-profits, generally specialize in “student success”—high retention and graduation rates. FPU has the highest four-year graduation rate of any Central Valley college or university, is a Hispanic Serving Institution, with a Hispanic student population of 35 percent, and is one of the top 10 HSIs nationally in graduating Hispanic students.
It is often said that among the great things about California are its public higher education systems. What should be said more often is that among the great things about California are its institutions of private higher education, some of the greatest in the world. This is also true for California’s Christian colleges and universities. Californians have choices in where they can invest themselves, not just in large institutions but in educational communities with distinct missions in scholarship and learning, service and training, spiritual and ethical leadership.
Friday Night Live members prepared badges as part of the press conference. Mine said “private grant, public good.” And this is the point: higher education helps everyone because university graduates bring knowledge to their professions and communities. In its FPU form that education includes the whole student and, as we like to say, empowers leaders and transforms lives.