August 21, 2007
CA Budget Stalemate Threatening Financial Aid
Here’s a very interesting article from the Sacramento Bee on how the budget crisis in California is affecting students waiting for grants.
As college classes start, students wait for state payments
Budget standoff: Day 50
By Judy Lin – Bee Capitol Bureau
In many ways, 18-year-old Monique Straws has already overcome the odds.
A foster child since birth, Straws recently graduated from high school and was accepted at a performing-arts academy in Los Angeles, where she hopes to pursue a singing and acting career.
Despite lacking the family financial support many of her peers enjoy, Straws succeeded in lining up $30,000 worth of scholarships, grants and loans — just enough to cover a year’s worth of tuition and living expenses.
But with orientation set for Thursday, something beyond her control is threatening to derail her dream.
The eight-week-old state budget stalemate is preventing the California Student Aid Commission from releasing $6,551 in state and federal grants for Straws to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Without it, she says, she cannot start class.
“Legally, I’m all by myself. I don’t have parents to give me a check,” Straws said Wednesday while sitting on a couch in her friend’s living room with only a duffel bag of clothes and a box of her belongings. “I’m scrambling.”
Straws is far from alone. The Student Aid Commission administers financial aid to hundreds of thousands of California’s college students. This year, the commission is projected to release $809 million to more than 266,000 Cal Grant recipients and another $6 million to more than 1,600 former foster youths under a program known as the Chafee Grant. The commission also administers other grants.
“We are bound by the budget so we cannot issue any money,” said commission spokesman Tom Mays. “Once the budget is passed, we will make every effort to expedite that cycle of the award money.”
Paul Browning, a spokesman for the California State University system, said campuses are being urged to figure out ways to help students expecting grants. At least one, California State University, Chico, has decided to float the grant money to recipients until the money is reimbursed by the state.
“This is going to be an accounting nightmare for the campuses as they work to figure out which students need the funds the most, and how to direct funds to them,” Browning said. “It will take months to clean it all up.”