SMU eNews

SMU Staff Rally at the Capitol; Cal Grant Proposed Cut will Hurt over 26,000 Students

A controversial proposal from Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown to slash grant funding for private school students was defeated on March 7, after students and college and university administrators rallied at the Capitol building in Sacramento.  Some of the attendees were staff members from Samuel Merritt University (SMU).  In an effort to tackle California's $9.2 billion budget deficit, Gov. Brown proposed to cut $301.7 million from Cal Grants -- reducing the maximum grant from $9,708 to $5,472.

"Governor Brown's proposed budget would cut the Cal Grant for students at independent nonprofit institutions by 44 percent," said John Garten-Shuman, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services.  "This will hurt California's lowest income families without saving the state any money."

An Assembly subcommittee voted 4-0 to reject the cuts to Cal Grants, an income-based financial aid program, after hearing testimony from students.

"The capstone of the day was a rally held on the steps of the Capitol, with students and policy makers sharing personal stories about how the Cal Grant helped them achieve their educational dreams," said Garten-Shuman.

According to news reports, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Democrat, said Gov. Brown would have to "find the cuts somewhere else. We're drawing a line." 

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.  Mary Hoang, SMU Financial Aid Counselor, worries that the proposal would force students to drop out.

"I felt it was important to attend the rally because we are fighting for our students and their education," said Hoang.  "I was hoping Governor Brown would see and hear the type of damages that could happen in higher education if the proposal went through."

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, came out against cuts to Cal Grants last month, stating to the L.A. Times that 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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Ron Salazar and Tari Witherspoon, Financial Aid staff at the Cal Grant protest
John Garten-Shuman,Tari Witherspoon, and Ron Salazar at the Cal Grant Rally in Sacramento
March 7, 2012 Cal Grant Rally on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento
Tari Witherspoon and John Garten-Shuman lend thier voice and support