FPU students hosted a morning press conference in the AIMS Hall Atrium on the main campus. Perea was the special guest and FPU President Pete C. Menjares, Ph.D., and student Janet Salcedo also spoke.
The 2014-2015 California budget calls for an 11 percent Cal Grant cut to new students, which would return the award to the amount students received more than 15 years ago. The financial axe will fall especially hard on those who chose independent colleges and universities, who will receive more than $1,000 less for the academic year beginning in the fall of 2014.
The students, members of the youth development organization California Friday Night Live Partnership (fridaynightlive.org) gathered 536 letters asking for Cal Grant reductions to be rescinded, and distributed those letters to 40 legislators, including Perea.
In his remarks, Menjares pointed out:
· Private, nonprofit colleges and universities enroll over 176,000 undergraduates and more than 140,000 graduate students. The annual state subsidy for a Cal Grant student at these schools is $8,800, as opposed to $25,600 at a University of California campus and $13,200 at a California State University campus. (State subsidy is calculated as Cal Grant awards plus state support for every U.C. or C.S.U. student regardless of that student's financial need.)
· Sixty three percent of Cal Grant students who attend schools in the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities are first-generation college students. Those receiving Cal Grant A have an average family income of $41,300, while Cal Grant B students have an average family income of $16,523. Forty-one percent are Latino, 7 percent are African American, 24 percent are Caucasian and 17 percent are Asian American/Pacific Islander.
· Sixty-two percent of AICCU Cal Grant students graduate in four years. This is on par with U.C.'s four-year graduation rate and is significantly higher than the 16 percent C.S.U. rate.
· The Cal Grant program is successful because it allows students to choose where they want to use their award. Many first-generation, low-income students may think a private, nonprofit college is unattainable, but with financial assistance from the university, state and federal government, they can realize their dreams of attending higher education.
· For the majority of Cal Grant students, when there is a gap in financial aid, their choices are to increase loan debt, depend on their already cash-strapped families for assistance or work even more hours, taking time from studies.