Cal Grants in Jeopardy

Freshman Kenneth Chancey went to Sacramento with others LMU community members to oppose proposed cuts in Cal Grants.

Anyone who attended LMU and received a Cal Grant knows that budget decisions in Sacramento can affect lives hundreds of miles away. This coming June, more than 800 LMU students will find out if the state education grants that have helped them attend LMU will be reduced, perhaps by 44 percent.

The maximum amount that a qualifying LMU student can receive in a Cal Grant is $9,708. The governor’s budget proposal will reduce the maximum grant to $5,472 for recipients at independent universities like LMU. The proposed cuts apply only to recipients at independent universities and will not apply to qualified recipients at UC and Cal State schools.

On March 7, freshmen Kenneth Chancey and Christian Rodriguez, both Cal Grant recipients, lobbied in Sacramento about the impact of the proposed cuts. About 26,000 students statewide rely on these grants. Cal Grant recipients at independent universities have the lowest average family income of all Cal Grant recipients. Also, the cuts will reduce California’s future economic strength and capacity for innovation. The Public Policy Institute of California, a policy research organization in San Francisco, estimates that even without the cuts, California will be short one million needed college-educated students by 2025.

LMU alumni count themselves among those whose success in life and career is directly related to financial aid programs, including the Cal Grant.

Kathryn Nielsen ’76 got her start toward achieving her career goals with the help of a Cal Grant. Her parents struggled to pay for their children’s college education. “I did not realize it then, but we were at the poverty level,” said Nielsen. “Without that Cal Grant, it would not have been possible for me to go school.” Today, Nielsen is senior vice president and controller for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, the theatrical division of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Rene B. LaVigne ’83 enrolled at Loyola Marymount University, where a financial aid package that included Cal Grants helped him become the first in his family to graduate from college. LaVigne started work at an accounting firm eight days after graduating. Today he is president, chief executive and majority owner of Iron Bow Technologies, an IT company based in Chantilly, Va. “I always refer to my education as the platform where it all started,” said LaVigne, “My Loyola experience and financial aid positioned me to do well in school and have a successful career. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Miguel Alex Centeno ’11 testified about the value of the program in Sacramento in 2010. He graduated from LMU with honors while raising a family. He was an intern with the Legal Aid Foundation in Los Angeles and the Office of International Trade at L.A.’s City Hall. Centeno also was elected the youngest assembly district delegate to the California Democratic Party. Today, he works at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “With hard work, I received a scholarship to my dream school, Loyola Marymount University,” Centeno said. “But I realize that I was only able to take hold of this opportunity because of the Cal Grant.”


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