With California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new budget plan released last Tuesday, I have been trying to wrap my head around the impact of these massive budget cuts. Per the usual, the most vulnerable will feel the biggest squeeze. California will become the only state without a welfare program with the proposed elimination of Cal-Works, one million poor children will be dropped from health insurance, and over 200,000 college-bound students would lose some or all of their tuition assistance coming from the Cal Grant program. Existing grants will be reduced, and new grants for incoming students will be eliminated.
Cal Grants are kind of like vouchers for college students, and currently they do the following:
“They provide up to the full fees at public universities – $7,788 at University of California campuses and $3,354 at California State University schools. Low-income students attending community colleges, who typically pay no fees, can get up to $1,551 per year in cash for transportation, books and living expenses. Those attending private colleges in California can get up to $9,708 in tuition payments.”
What makes this budget cut so disturbing is that a lack of financial assistance is widely cited as a barrier for Latino youth to attend college, and in California, students will be faced with a double whammy with the elimination of this aid and then fee increases at public institutions next year.
Furthermore, the Public Policy Institute of California projects that by 2025 only 32 percent of the state’s working age adults will have a college degree, while 41% of all jobs will require one. Guess we are going to have to import more H1B workers, fueling the immigration woes.
“This is not happening everywhere,” says Tom Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. “Almost all other states protect need-based grant programs and expand them during recessions.” To compensate, “they cut school budgets with the expectation they can raise tuition. This is why we were all so shocked that the governor was going to cut this first. Maybe he is making a political statement. He’s going to galvanize a lot of opposition.”
This Cal Grant crisis is a great opportunity for Latino politicians in California at both the state and federal level to pick up the torch and run with it. So many of our youth will be adversely affected, and during recessions, it makes more sense to go to school to acquire additional training instead of grovel for the shortage of low paying jobs. I’m going to be keeping an eye out for some solutions to this crisis from our fearless leaders, but in the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts here.