Stalemate may cause students to drop college

September 4, 2008 8:58:28 PM PDT
About 80,000 community college students in California rely on state funding to cover the cost of their education. Their funding is in jeopardy because of the state budget stalemate.

Cal Grants are state grant money that goes to low income students to help enable them to attend college. Without a budget, the state may have to withhold the money, and for many students, if they don't get the money, they will be forced to drop out.

The financial aid office at Evergreen Valley Community College may just be the most popular place on campus. About half of the 10,000 students are on some kind of financial assistance. 460 receive Cal Grant money.

"The average grant is about $1,500 a year, broken up over two semesters. So for these students, it's a significant amount of dollars," says Evergreen Valley College President David Wain Coon Ph.D.

Very significant to Lucha Diaz, a single parent, full time civil engineering student, who also works.

"It goes toward gas, just our monthly bills we have, rent, utilities. All the stuff we need to come to school fulltime," says Diaz, a Cal Grant recipient.

Diaz is one of 86,000 California community college students receiving Cal Grants. They are among the neediest students who struggle to pay for living expenses and school costs.

"In fact, the vast majority of our students are low income and would be the students most greatly impacted by this," says Dr. Wain Coon.

Dolores Estremera is the single parent of a teenage son.

Cal grant money helps defray his costs as she goes to school.

"I have to pay for his vehicle, money for gas, for his books, supplies, and clothing. So it'll hurt me quite a bit," says Estremera, a Cal Grant recipient.

Evergreen Valley College hopes to find other sources of funding to cover the Cal Grant gap if the budget impasse continues.

"We have a foundation potentially with donors who are interested in helping students out or other sources of financial aid that we could potentially transfer as well," says Dr. Wain Coon.

Still, students like Diaz are worried.

"We'd probably have to quit school and go find some redundant job. We're here to get a career not here to get remedial work," says Diaz.

The Cal grant checks normally come in the fall, late September or October, but the problem is the final state budget, when passed, may not even cover Cal grants to the level they are now.


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