The Daily Californian Online

Granting Access

By Senior Editorial Board
Daily Cal Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Category: Opinion > Editorials

Amid all talks of budget cuts and fee hikes is talk of maintaining access to higher education for as many students as possible. The Cal Grant program, the largest source of California state aid, is essential to preserving this access.

However, given the state's current economic crisis, it must look for ways to cut the program's cost. Two proposals currently being considered by the California State Legislature would save the state $124 million annually and appear to do so in a way that minimizes the negative impact on students with the most need and addresses the problem of high defaults at for-profit colleges.

The state distributes approximately $1 billion in Cal Grant aid, with about $94 million of that going to for-profit colleges. However, while only 10 percent of students nationwide attend for-profit colleges, they account for 44 percent of all student loan defaults, according to a U.S. Senate study.

Clearly, something is wrong - for-profit colleges attract students with promises of better futures, but at many institutions, the only guarantee is a higher likelihood of default. The first proposal, denying for-profit schools with high default rates Cal Grants, would provide a financial incentive for these institutions to follow up on their promises of a better future. Implementing this proposal also could potentially save the state $24 million.

The second proposal, which would save $100 million, is to reevaluate students each year on their eligibility for receiving Cal Grants. While this would necessarily lead to less aid being disbursed, it would ensure that the system is run as efficiently as possible and helps recipients demonstrating the highest need.

Paying for college is difficult for most families, and it pains us to endorse a proposal resulting in fewer students receiving aid. We are heartened that the University of California would increase aid to those who unexpectedly stop qualifying for grants and hope universities with similar resources do the same.

Unfortunately, however, the state is between a rock and a hard place - and escaping our financial crisis requires painful sacrifice.

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