Occidental to Help Lead Financial Aid Outreach to California's Neediest Students
Occidental College will help lead efforts to boost college attendance rates among disadvantaged and first-generation students in California by increasing awareness of financial aid programs, thanks to two new major grants.
The awards - $246,000 from the Lumina Foundation for Education and $120,000 from the James Irvine Foundation – make Occidental one of the leading sources of financial aid information in a state where rising tuition costs have outpaced disposable personal income gains over the past decade.
The grants will pay for the college to coordinate “Project Financial Aid Awareness” (PFFA) for at least three years, an effort highlighted by College Goal Sunday. Launched in 1989 by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association with funding from the Lilly and Lumina foundations, College Goal Sunday offers free financial aid counseling to the families of prospective college students who need assistance completing paperwork. This and other PFAA activities, including public service announcements, press releases, posters and brochures, will occur annually during the three months leading up to the March filing deadline for the Cal Grant program.
Under the leadership of Governor Gray Davis, College Goal Sunday workshops were held statewide for the first time during the month of February 2002, and targeted almost 300 high schools with high populations of low-income and minority students.
Plans for PFAA outreach also include the creation of the first online searchable database of hundreds of financial aid programs serving students in virtually every public high school in California.
“Occidental College is taking the kind of leadership needed to strengthen California’s outreach efforts critical to the success of the Cal Grant guarantee,” said California Secretary for Education Kerry Mazzoni. “I look forward to continuing this important work with Occidental College and our other coalition partners.”
Occidental College will again partner with the Davis Administration and its coalition of education stakeholders -- the California Student Aid Commission, the University of California, the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and an array of individuals representing various educational constituencies in the state -- to support Cal Grant outreach efforts.
Last year, Governor Davis signed the landmark legislation creating the Cal Grant Entitlement program, which guarantees financial aid grants for qualified students each year. While there has since been a 54 percent increase in the number of awards made to graduating high school seniors as a result, the California Student Aid Commission received large numbers of incomplete or incorrect financial aid applications.
“While there is no doubt that the number of students in California’s public schools will increase dramatically over the next decade, there is a real question as to whether they will be able to afford the higher education they will need to succeed,” said Occidental President Theodore R. Mitchell. “We hope that Project Financial Aid Awareness will focus the education community in California on a critical mutual goal for many years to come, and will serve as an blueprint for collaborative financial aid outreach.”
“Educators, families and researchers agree that the most effective way to ensure that young people are prepared for and motivated to pursue higher education is through one-on-one counseling and mentoring, exactly the type of service we intend to provide a large, diverse and talented group of students throughout California,” said David Roth, an appointed member of the California Student Aid Commission and a Mitchell deputy.
At Occidental, 100 percent of students who demonstrate need receive financial aid. The average aid package for low-income students in the Class of 2005 was almost $34,000, most of which was made up of scholarships and grants, including Cal Grants. Each year, Occidental’s financial aid staff conducts about three dozen workshops in Southern California high schools in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tagalog.
For more information on the Cal Grant Entitlement Program and other financial aid, visit the California Student Aid Commission at www.csac.ca.gov. Information on the Lumina Foundation for Education can be found at www.luminafoundation.org, and the James Irvine Foundation’s website’s address is www.irvine.org.