Occidental College President to Chair Committee on Future of Cal Grant
Theodore R. Mitchell, president of Occidental College, will chair a new special committee charged with recommending to California legislators how to ensure the Cal Grant program continues to provide adequate aid for financially needy students attending private colleges and universities.
Creation of the Committee on the Future of the Cal Grant was prompted by California’s continuing fiscal woes. Earlier this year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed major cuts in the Cal Grant program, including a 44 percent reduction for students attending private institutions. The final state budget passed in July included a smaller 14 percent cut in Cal Grant funding for students at private schools.
“Because the state still faces a large deficit, the Cal Grant program will continue to be vulnerable to cuts,” said Mitchell. “The committee’s task is to provide state policy makers with a rational method for determining this award in good as well as bad fiscal times – a method that can be written into state law.”
Since the launch of the Cal Grant program in 2000, the California Student Aid Commission has provided more than 300,000 Cal Grant awards to qualified students. Cal Grants are available to all low- and moderate-income high school seniors who meet financial and academic requirements. They can be used at public and private schools.
California’s 77 private colleges and universities – a group which ranges from large research universities like Stanford and USC to small liberal arts colleges like Occidental and Pomona – collectively enroll more students than the University of California. These private institutions also enroll more Latino and African-American students than the University of California, and have a higher graduation rate.
“The irony is that the Cal Grant program was originally conceived as a way to ease overcrowding at public universities by making it possible for qualified students to better afford a private college or university,” Mitchell said. “Cal Grants remain a bargain for taxpayers, as it costs less to send a Cal Grant recipient to a private institution than it does to create a space for them at a UC or Cal State campus.”
The special committee is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Student Aid Commission, the governor, and legislative leaders in December.