Cal State University grad-students are now getting word that the grant money many of them rely on to pay their tuition may be cut off as part of the endless rounds of budget cutting. Cue the violins:
California State University is withholding financial aid for about 20,000 needy graduate students - money that pays their tuition - pending a decision that could permanently end the cash grants, The Chronicle has learned.
Graduate students across the 23-campus system began receiving financial aid notices this week and were astonished to see that the State University Grant that takes care of tuition for low-income students was missing. In its place was the offer of a federal loan at 6.8 percent interest.
"I thought it was a mistake, that someone messed up at the financial aid office," said Hayley Leventhal, who is in the first year of a two-year master's program in counseling at San Francisco State University.
It was no mistake.
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed recently told all campuses not to allocate about $90 million in financial aid that would have paid the 2012-13 tuition for qualified grad students - about half of the roughly 40,000 graduates enrolled.
These students seem typical:
"I was horrified. I started crying once I realized it was happening to everyone," said Leventhal, who received her notice Monday.
Leventhal, who hopes to become a college counselor, chose San Francisco State after talking with financial aid officers who helped estimate her cost based on grant money.
"It's a huge risk to take two years out of your working life to make this kind of commitment," she said. "I did it because I expected to receive financial assistance.
"Now I'm considering whether it's wise for me to come back next year."
She and classmate Arielle Smith, who also lost her grant, created an online petition to urge CSU not to yank the financial aid.
"Stand up to tell Chancellor Reed and the Board of Trustees that advanced degrees are not luxury goods, and that the CSU system cannot and should not sacrifice graduate students," the petition reads.
Leventhal and Smith posted the petition Wednesday night. By Friday it had more than 200 signatures.
Besides the likely loss of the grant money, what angered the students was that they received no notice or explanation.
"We felt powerless and frustrated," Leventhal said. She and Smith visited the financial aid office Tuesday to learn more, but were simply told that, yes, their grants had been cut.
Back in Ye Olden Days when Pete Wilson was governor, these students would have been rioting in the quad against Evil Republicans balancing the budget on their backs. Now that there are no longer any Republicans with any say in the matter...the budget is still being balanced on their backs and all they can do is rail against dark mysterious forces taking away their crumbs. (ten of those $8,000/year grants probably add up to the annual pension for some retired university administrator). You feel powerless and frustrated? That's what happens when you rely entirely on the state, especially a one-party state, for your daily bread.
And, note that the complaining student, Haley Levanthal, was in grad school in hopes of becoming a college counselor. Can we all reasonably assume that she might be a liberal who likes the idea of redistributing wealth so long as some of it comes her way? But, when the $$ are cut, suddenly it's "dark mysterious forces" time. No. You are being cut off in favor of the adults who are already comfortably ensconced in their university sinecures. All those hip professors who use Michael Moore movies as part of their curricula may talk a hip game, but ultimately their students are human shields protecting their professors' tenure and parking spaces.
(I'm not even going to mention that many of these students should properly have gotten all of the education they could have possibly needed in high school and college, but didn't. There's a lot of money sloshing around the education world, but precious little of it seems to go to the students).
California's public universities, like every other public institution in the state, spends an inordinate amount of money and much of it seems to simply waft away into the either, even though we all know that it ends up in some pocket somewhere. But, it's not as if this public money is actually being spent for the public good.