By Borna Hamedani
For this piece I have interviewed students from UCI, OCC, and UCLA all who have recived financial aid from their schools.
The UCI financial Aid office located in Aldrich Hall was somber on the morning of November 16th, 2009. Aid officials were kept busy with their work. Once in a while a student would come in and check on their financial aid situation, posing questions and receiving answers. Some would leave disappointed, while others would leave with a big grins on their faces. This being symbolic of the budget cut crisis are state is currently experiencing in regards to education. Budget cuts which have adversely affected financial aid for students.
On July 28th Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed approximately half of the California Student Aid Commission budget. Cutting it from $13 million to $6.7 million, this strongly hinders the appropriate and timely disbursement of financial aid for hundreds of thousands of student in California. Considering the amount of students receiving Cal Grants has risen 68 percent since the year 2000, the need for this commission to be properly funded is even greater. Due to this many students have failed to receive all or in some cases any of the financial aid they were originally awarded.
One of those students was in the financial aid office on the same day I was. When he was leaving I overheard him “This isn’t fair.” His name is Ali Afrasiabi and he is a 5th year Biology major who is having trouble paying his student fees and living expenses. I approached Ali for an interview and he was more then willing to give one.
Q: As you said in the office what is not fair?
A: I was awarded a $5000 grant to help me pay for school and so far I’ve only got $1700 of it and that’s not even enough to cover one quarter of classes. It barely covers more then half the cost of a quarter for me.
Q: Did they tell you why this has happened?
A: Yea I don’t know, they said it’s because of cutbacks that they had to make and grants have been reduced for some students. I guess I’m the lucky one of those students. I’m really pissed off right now, Sorry!
Q: Did they tell you if you will be receiving your entire financial aid?
A: They told me the rest of my grant has been put on hold or something and that the earliest it might be given to me is the start of next quarter. But they also said I might not even get the full amount.
Q: How will this affect you?
A: Well, first off it’s really messing with my head and I can’t really concentrate on school. Because I don’t even know how I’m going to pay for classes next quarter. I need that grant and I need it bad, you know? I’m just really frustrated with our school right now, how could they let this happen to the students.
With the UC Board of Regents recently approving a 32 percent increase in student fees, financial aid has never been so vital for so many students. This increase will generate $505 million and $175 million of it will be set aside for financial aid. According to the universityofcalifornia.edu, grants along with expanded federal tuition tax credits are expected to cover the rise in tuition for all students whose households have incomes below $180,000. This is crucial for many students who will not be able to afford the rise in tuition, and many of whom will be forced to drop out.
“I already work full time and attend school full time, and if there going to raise fees that much, I think I’m just going to drop out and work for a living.” Stated Eric Akbarpour a student I came across at the Orange Coast College financial aid office. “My parents don’t support me financially, I’m on my own and my financial aid isn’t covering all the costs of school.” Eric is not the only student who is being put in this situation; many others are considering dropping out of school all together, and this would be a great error on their part. Statistics indicate that in general the more education people complete the greater income they will earn in their careers. For those who can’t afford school and whose financial aid has been cut down, this will have a substantial impact on their futures.
“I want to get through school and start my career not in debt.” Alex Ashari a senior political science major at UCLA stated to me. Alex has also been stripped of a large portion of his financial aid and instead has been approved for student loans.
“I appreciate the loans, but I wanted to get through school on financial aid and not have to owe money once I graduated, but I guess I have no choice.”
Alex will graduate after this year and plans on attending graduate school. In order to do this he will have to take out many more student loans. His financial aid will no longer cover his expenses the same way it once did.
Budget cuts are still being made and according to the 2009 State Budget Act, University budgets are being cut by an additional $255 million. This just furthers the problems with financial aid because schools will suffer great losses from top to bottom.
Fortunately for students within the UC’s, programs like the Blue and Gold program have been put into action to assist students in paying for school. If there family earns less then $70,000 a year they become eligible for additional aid to help cover all there system wide fees. A helping hand for those in desperate need of further aid, so that they can receive a proper education.