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Cal Grants for no one

By Staff Editorial

By Staff Editorial

The California budget dispute finally came to an end on Sept. 23, but for many community college students, it may have been too late.

One of the effects of the California budget gridlock was the withholding of Cal Grants from eligible college students who applied.

California was the last state to approve a budget, long after the July 15 deadline.

This standstill was because of a perceived impasse between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California legislature. Both sides were quick to blame each other for the lack of progress.

“It is important for the legislators to recognize that there will be a lot of damage because of this stalemate,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Schools will not get their money, and it will have a rippling effect,” he said.

Despite knowing this, Schwarzenegger originally refused to sign a budget that the state legislature had passed nearly unanimously.

Likewise, the legislators refused to compromise with him, at first.

In fact, Schwarzenegger threatened to veto hundreds of bills if the concessions he demanded were not met.

The legislators, in an equally mature manner, matched threat for threat. According to an article in the L.A. Times, Assemblyman Chuck Calderon said lawmakers could easily refuse to pass bills that are important to Schwarzenegger’s agenda.

“To threaten bills without taking each one on the merits is more immature politically than anything else,” Calderon said, according to the L.A. Times article.

Finally, after concessions on both sides, Schwarzenegger signed a budget on Sept. 23.

Unfortunately, even if the Cal Grant checks were in the mail the following day, they’d still arrive after the add/drop deadline at many community colleges in California, including Riverside City College.

The missing Cal Grants affected as many as 86,000 community college students in California, according to the San Francisco Chronicle article.

Many of the students that were affected attend RCC.

Despite the missing Cal Grants, Eugenia Vincent, dean of Student Financial Services for this campus, said there was no need for immediate worry among students at RCC.

“Most (students that would receive Cal Grants) are Pell Grant-eligible,” Vincent said. “They did receive some type of aid, they just didn’t receive all of their aid.”

The Pell Grants are provided by the federal government, and so are not a casualty of the budget war in California.

Vincent said that students affected were able to wait until the state had a budget and the grants had funding again.

“What we did was we tried to find the students who were not getting any money, and we checked with those students, and they were fine with waiting for the state,” Vincent said.

Despite the lack of Cal Grant funding before the last day to add or drop classes, Vincent said she hadn’t heard of any students having to drop classes because of the budget problem.

“Not that I’m aware of, and I don’t believe they did, because the Board of Governors’ waiver paid for their classes,” she said.

She added that the Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are available to help with other financial needs that the Board of Governors’ waiver didn’t address.

“I think it’s because RCC students are very knowledgeable about the fact that the Cal Grant funding is all predicated on funding from the state,” Vincent said.

“Most of them qualified for Pell, and they all got B.O.G.,” she said.

Students who are able to survive the budget crisis without their Cal Grants may count themselves lucky. Not all California colleges have been able to help. In fact, the San Francisco Chronicle cites Linda Michalowski, vice chancellor for Student Services in the state’s community college system, as saying that only about a dozen of California’s 110 community colleges can help students financially.

Stories on the Cal Grants in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chronicle of Higher Education tell stories of students potentially having to drop classes for a semester.

Still, for RCC students who are in a bind because they can’t get their Cal Grant money, Vincent said there are options.

“If they have had financial difficulty and they are a Cal Grant recipient, and have not got any funding at all, they should come to the financial aid office,” Vincent said. “We’ll work with them on a one-on-one basis.”

So if you’re hurting financially because you haven’t received any Cal Grants yet, make sure to drop by the Financial Aid office and talk to Eugenia Vincent or Elizabeth Hilton, the assistant director of student financial services.

And know that you have the governor and state legislature to thank for your predicament, for playing politics at a time when it hurt people in need.

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