SACRAMENTO, CA --- How am I going to pay off the last four years of my education? Many of us have been faced with this question, trying to figure out ways to creatively fund a hard-earned degree: special scholarships, a full-time job, multiple part-time jobs or, unfortunately, a debt-bomb that will hit as soon as one steps off the stage at graduation. Thankfully, the Cal Grant, a financial endowment given to California residents attending school in state, has been one of the more accessible means of easing that financial burden, especially for nearly 200 students at The Master’s University.
This could no longer be the case.
Governor Jerry Brown has proposed cutting the Cal Grant award by 11.3 percent, diminishing the available aid by more than $1,000 per student. This cut does not affect public institutions like University of California or California State schools, which already receive an average of $14,200 to $27,000 per student from the Cal Grant. Brown’s proposal only touches private, nonprofit schools like Master’s U, USC, Pepperdine, Azusa Pacific, Biola, Chapman and 73 others that receive only an average of $8,550 per student.
The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) organized a day for these private independent schools to speak to the cut that is “unfairly targeted at students that want to attend a private, nonprofit college or university…, limits their ability to attend an institution that best fits their academic career and goals, impacts their ability to graduate in four years, adds to their debt load, or may even cause them to not attend college at all.”
Of the many Master’s U students who receive the Cal Grant, five traveled to Sacramento along with TMU staff members Gary Edwards and Whitney Best. Bianca Cubello , Casey Phillips, John Brazil, Katherine Throop and Norman Molina boarded a plane on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and flew to our state’s capitol, joining students from other AICCU schools to represent all those affected by this proposed cut.
Feb. 28 was tightly scheduled. First, they had breakfast with State Assemblyman Dante Acosta and his staff. A friend to many at the university and representative of the 38th District that includes most of the Santa Clarita Valley, Acosta briefed them on what to expect when speaking with other state assemblymen, senators and their staff members. Immediately after breakfast, they joined the other schools’ student representatives for a few meetings and lunch, where select students spoke to why they were there.
“You need to realize the backdrop of this,” explained Edwards, who is the Director of Financial Aid at Master’s U. “The students that were brought were mostly women and minorities. For other schools there was definitely a liberal agenda and the millennial-esque speech of ‘you are valued and important and making a difference,’ making these issues ones to give them their self-worth.”
Afterward, the students gathered by district and broke off to speak to their individual state representatives.
Bianca Cubello, a senior communication major at Master’s U, was thankful for her time in Sacramento stating, “the representatives took their time to sit and listen, take notes on our personal lives and what the Cal Grant means for us.”
Norman Molina, senior music/communication major and international student from El Salvador, was struck by how normal they were. “It’s a process of talking about the issues like any other person. It was non-confrontational and no big deal.”
The desire to be good stewards of the Lord’s financial and academic provisions influenced our students’ conversations with legislators and other students. They want the Cal Grant, not because it validates their intelligence, importance or uniqueness, but because it allows students, like those wanting a Christian education, to have the freedom to choose the education best suited to them and their desired post-college career or lifestyle.
“Bianca, for example, did a great job articulating how helpful the Cal Grant was for her and asked those she spoke with, ‘how can we as students on campus assist you as legislators to make your job easier?’” Edwards said.
Later that day, Senator Scott Wilk set aside time to take our group of seven on an exclusive tour of the State Assembly floor, “it’s always an honor to bring young people to the Senate floor,” Wilk said, “you never know when God will plant a seed.” Wilk encouraged them in their efforts, education and faith, and left “impressed by the passion and articulateness of their arguments.”
The separate meetings with Acosta and Wilk and the time with other student representatives gave them a much larger purpose for being there, Cubello said. They heard more complex stories from students as to why the Cal Grant is impactful and necessary; the issue does not just affect Master’s. However, even in the midst of a shared experience and shared need, Master’s students were able to stand out as leaders in trusting God with what He will do whether or not the budget is cut.
“I was just really proud of our students,” Edwards said. “They demonstrated the Cal Grant funds were used wisely, as they succinctly and respectfully talked about the issues with and importance of the Cal Grant. It demonstrated Christian education is not this narrow-minded, bigoted way of thinking. Contentment is destroyed by comparison, but comparison (in relation to other student reps.) established our students are content. The secular arguments were entitled and demanding, tied to self-worth. Our students came from a grateful, selfless, humble and balanced viewpoint. The difference was glaring. We have a God who has given us a worldview not based on the world of the unknown.”
The California State Senate will vote on the Cal Grant cut in May. Pray that the Cal Grant budget will not be cut, tweet the senators with #stopthecut and #keepthecalgrant and encourage others receiving aid to contact their assemblymember about the importance of the Grant.