Last week, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance rejected, on a bipartisan vote, the Governor’s budget proposal to limit Cal Grant eligibility by raising minimum GPA thresholds. As we have discussed before, these changes would lock out more than a third of applicants now currently eligible for Cal Grants. We applaud the Subcommittee for taking a strong stand in defense of financial aid, and sending a clear message that the state won’t get ahead by leaving students behind.
The committee vote was taken at a hearing in which TICAS Program Director Debbie Cochrane was invited to testify, and where she shared that the GPA proposal would disproportionately affect underrepresented students and cut off grant aid from students who can and do succeed in college. Using new data obtained from the California Student Aid Commission and the state’s public segments of higher education, we found that these cuts would hit African-American and Latino students particularly hard. Almost two-thirds of 2010-11 new Cal Grant recipients with GPAs below the proposed new thresholds at public colleges are African American or Latino. Our testimony also documents that Cal Grant students – including those with GPAs below the proposed new thresholds – are succeeding in college, outperforming other community college students in persistence and ability to earn 30 units, and graduating at about the same rate as other students at CSU and UC.
While the committee’s action is a welcome sign, these proposals – and other harmful cuts to Cal Grants – will continue to be debated throughout the next few months. We will continue to analyze and communicate the effects of this and other Cal Grant proposals, as well as the importance of investing in need-based financial aid, as the process moves forward.