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Davis, California

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

California must not cut spending on crucial financial aid programs

The Middle Class Scholarship and Cal Grant provide millions for California students, and cutting them will cause students to suffer 


By CLAIRE SCHAD — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


For many students, attending college would not be possible without financial aid and scholarships. Luckily for myself and many others, California has been a leader in the efforts to make college more affordable to all students. 

However, in early May, a shadow was cast over California’s progressive approach to financial aid when Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a revision of the state budget which included many cuts and limits to higher education grants and scholarships. 

For many years California has been one of the few states to acknowledge and act on the increasing burden that paying for college has on not only low-income families but also middle-class families who had previously been left out of financial aid opportunities. The disproportional rise in college prices in relation to income has made paying for college more difficult for the middle class, who were once defined by their ability to pay for their children’s college. Now, many middle class families struggle to afford the price of college without spending an outrageous and often impossible amount of their income on tuition. 

Unfortunately, the revolutionary Middle Class Scholarship program, which is designed to alleviate financial stress for middle-income families, was hit hardest in Gov. Newsom’s May budget revision. Since its founding in 2013, the Middle Class Scholarship has provided financial assistance to over 300,000 students attending the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems, as well as California Community Colleges (CCC) that have a household income of less than $217,000. 

If the newly unveiled budget revision is finalized in June, the Middle Class Scholarship will undergo cuts totaling $510 million, affecting students as soon as next fall. This means students who currently receive the scholarship could see their award amount reduced by as much as 80%. This will undoubtedly create issues and increase financial strain for eligible students at UC Davis and across the state, who currently receive anywhere from $500 to over $7,500 per year from the scholarship. 

Additionally, if approved, Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget revision would also put a halt to the promised yearly expansion of the Cal Grant, which provides support to over 350,000 students, with awards ranging from $1,000 to upwards of $15,000 yearly. In 2022, Gov. Newsom signed AB-1746, the Student Financial Aid: Cal Grant Reform Act, saying the state would increase the reach of the Cal Grant each year, allowing more students access to the program and increasing the amount of aid many students receive. This promise helped modernize the Cal Grant system, which hadn’t been updated in nearly six decades, allowing the expansion of access to the Cal Grant and making the California financial aid system more equitable and inclusive overall. However, Gov. Newsom’s signing of AB-1746 came with one important condition: the expansion of the Cal Grant would only occur if the 2024-2025 budget year allowed it. This very condition is why we are now grappling with the proposed cuts to financial aid. 

Despite this, the governor has made it clear that he doesn’t want to make cuts to public education funding, saying it ultimately boils down to the fact that California has “a math problem,” referring to the state’s $27.6 billion deficit.

Ultimately, whether Gov. Newsom likes it or not, cuts to financial aid will have lasting negative effects and are not the solution to the state’s budget problems. If these cuts are implemented, thousands of students will see their financial aid reduced next fall, placing more strain on families and forcing students to take on more loans that will take years to repay. California’s budget deficits are undeniably problematic, but cutting spending for financial aid programs that will fund the education of our future leaders is not the answer. 


Written by: Claire Schad — cfschad@ucdavis.edu 


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.



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