A proposal moving through the state Legislature, the Cal Grant Equity Framework, will begin to remedy some of the long-standing financial aid inequities that persist in higher education, particularly for California’s community colleges. Not only will more community college students be served under the framework, but more students from every sector of California higher education would be eligible for aid while maintaining current tuition and fee coverage or maximum award amounts. Just a five percent increase in degree attainment could generate an additional $4.2 billion in state revenue.
The Equity Framework complements the governor’s proposed state budget, making the future brighter for students trying to succeed in life through higher education while helping business, too. An additional $1.5 billion will be allocated for the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, bringing the total investment to $4 billion. This program offers grants up to $25,000 for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. A fair financial aid package investment that helps unemployed and underemployed individuals jump back into the workforce with short-term certificates, earning mid-level, living wage jobs is the outcome of an investment that will bolster our economy. It can have intergenerational impact.
In our local communities, programs at community colleges provide the training and credentials for those who help businesses run. With these workers, businesses can advance opportunities while helping a thriving regional economy that is inclusive and globally competitive, the very mission of our regional chamber. The Cal Grant Equity Framework will expand access to financial aid to more than 280,000 students and remove outdated equity barriers, like age and time out of high school that are used to ration aid.
Our college system sustains the hope, aspirations and success of the nearly a quarter of million credit and noncredit students it proudly serves in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) district annually. The colleges educate students who become essential, productive engines that power the economic wheel, either right out of community college or after transfer to a four-year university. The community colleges know something about supporting our state’s critical small businesses the 116-college system serves as the workforce pipeline of California. These same small businesses support local economies throughout Los Angeles County, making the community college-business relationship extremely copasetic.
So, let’s tell our legislators and our governor that a vote for smart financial aid reform is a wise return on investment that will work hand in glove with the governor’s thoughtful budget investments. Now is the opportune time to invest in California’s economic backbone – the workforce of tomorrow—and support the Cal Grant Equity Framework. The LACCD is one of the largest community college districts in the nation, and many local business leaders fully understand the need and support the essential first step of modernizing our state financial aid system so that it will align with new federal aid guidelines and make higher education attainable for thousands more students.
Source www.dailynews.com Francisco C. Rodriguez is chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District serving nine campuses. Maria Salinas is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Both live in Los Angeles County.
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