In an effort to expand financial aid programs through Assembly Bill 2813, members of Associated Students, along with the California State Student Association, gathered more than 160 hand-written letters May 3 to give to Assemblymember Judy Chu, asking for her support of the bill.
“AB 2813 (has) been (the) leading priority as part of CSSA administrative agenda this year,” said Chad Charton, A.S. President and member of CSSA.
“They are very involved in coordinating the mobilization effort to move the bill forward,” he said.
CSSA had a goal of receiving 100 letters, but received about 162, said Peter Gallego, A.S. director of Legislative Affairs and member of CSSA.
The letters will be given to Chu most likely May 11, he said.
With the letters in hand, A.S. plans to approach Chu, Assembly Appropriations Committee chair, and ask her May 19 to support the bill, Gallego said.
“It takes a lot of effort for somebody to sit and actually write a letter and not just sign their name in a petition,” Charton said.
The bill, originally sponsored by Assemblymember Hector De La Torre, aims to expand several financial aid programs.
The bill would double the number of the Cal Grant Program from $22,500 to $45,000 for the next academic year.
It will also reform the Cal Grant B program to assist students on their first year at college. Currently, students in their first year are not financially assisted by Cal Grant B.
If the bill gets to the state Senate and is ultimately signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would also provide financial assistance to students from ages 24 to 27, Gallego said.
“Anyone under the age of 24 is usually considered to be a dependent student, anyone over the age of 24 is usually of an independent status,” Gallego said. “If the bill passes, (it) would give the student between the ages of 25 to 27 the opportunity to receive the grant.”
Students over the age of 24 are not eligible to receive a Cal Grant, unless they are doing a teaching credential program and are authorized by the Department of Education and approved by the CSU system, Gallego said.
“The bill is currently at the first physical floor of the assembly, it is in the Appropriation Committee,” Gallego said. “The Appropriation Committee deals with the financial constrains with regards to any type of legislation in order to proceed into the assembly floor.”
The bill is exclusively designed for the students, Charton said. “The proposal is to double the amount of competitive Cal Grants currently being offered, so from the 22,500 we go to 40,000.”
“It is our obligation and duty of (CSSA) to cater to the students needs in regards on higher education issue,” Gallego said. “That’s what all (is) about, we are elected into office, students pay A.S. fees.”
Gallego said, “60 cents out of the students $70 goes into the CSSA.”
The CSSA is the student body government of all the 23 CSU campuses, Gallego said. “We are there for the students, to represent the students ? our mission and goal (is) to serve the students.”
CSSA makes sure the students voices are heard by the CSU Board of Trustees, the State Legislature and the Governor, Gallego said.
“We are trying to move towards the goal where student tuition is actually balancing with regards of financial aid,” Gallego said.
“It’s an opportunity for the economic disadvantage students to come to college.”
Jeanette Barsh, who works in collaboration with CSSA, said she felt the necessity to collect letters from students, especially because students really work hard.
“Is just really giving those people who don’t have much and I think for those people who deserve higher education,” Barsh said.
“Most of the people that I talked to are just really sensitive, because most people have Cal Grants or they been trying to get Cal Grants and they want to help us as much a possible,” Barsh said.
“Students are the ones who are needed the most,” Barsh said. “CSSA is the voice for the students in the California legislation.”
Mario Dejesus, senior business management major, started receiving financial aid his last semester at Santa Monica College and during his two years at CSUN.
Dejesus said he took the initiative to write a letter to Assemblywoman Judy Chu, to consider the Bill AB 2813.
Dejesus said financial aid has been a lot of help for him. “I don’t feel the pressure to pay for tuition and also you get some extra money to buy books.”
“I get more time to study to do homework instead of working,” Dejesus said.
“In previous semesters there were times when I couldn’t afford a book and I had to rely on just lectures,” Dejesus said.
Melissa Daniels, psychology junior said the financial help she receives from the Cal Grant helps her to pay for the tuition
Daniels said that the majority of her friends also rely on Cal Grants to pay for tuition and other school expenses.
“We all wait for our financial check to clear at the beginning of the semester to buy books,” Daniels said.
“Without my financial aid, I would be out of college,” Daniels said.
CSSA, in collaboration with A.S., plans to set tables at Sierra Squad the next two Wednesdays to continue collecting more letters from students supporting the bill, Gallego said.