Jun 25, 2019

Groups work for tuition relief

With the proposed budget cuts to the California State University system looming in July, many students are concerned that Fresno State could be facing a significant spike in fees and tuition as a result. Fortunately, there are some statewide organizations campaigning for ways to make college expenses a little easier to bear.

One of these organizations is the California Student Aid Commission.

In response to the higher cost of education, the California Student Aid Commission has launched its own campaign to get the word out about free government aid for college students.

For the second year, members of the Cal Grant College Cash Crew will be bringing their message all across the state. Only four members strong, the partipants were recruited in hopes that they could influence a wide audience simply by talking about how state funded aid has played a pivotal part in their education.

“Basically, we travel around California and try to reach students from different parts of the state,” said Ezperanza Vargas, a senior at Fresno State majoring in interior design.

For her second year in the program, she said that her target demographic is people who speak Spanish.

Recently, Vargas did an interview with a Visalia newspaper, El Sol, and the crew spoke with high school students in the Sacramento area.

Aram Nadjarian, a new addition to the Cal Grant College Cash Crew, is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and has already received two degrees. Although his education is completed, he joined because he saw how convenient it is now to get state funding compared to when he went to school.

Nadjarian said that students can either go to calgrants.org or to several local workshops if they are confused about any issues regarding financial assistance.

Members of the crew receive not only the opportunity to share their story, but also a moderate scholarship for their efforts as well.

Bill Madison, communications manager for the California Student Aid Commission, said that last year, there were more than 650,000 Cal Grant applications, which is up from prior years. He said anyone interested should apply early so they can take advantage of as many possible grants that are out there. This can be done online at fafsa.ed.gov.

Another organization concerned about college affordability has decided to take the budget issue head-on.

Tuition Relief Now is a statewide alliance primarily composed of college students who support a measure to freeze tuition. The proposed College Affordability Act of 2008, which can be found on the organization’s Web site, tuitionreliefnow.org, proposes a five-year freeze on tuition for UCs and CSUs in the state. This will prevent increased fees due to budget cuts starting July 1, 2009.

The act would generate its own revenue by imposing a one percent tax on people whose annual income is over $1 million. The measure requires a petition of 434,000 signatures to get on the ballot. The effort to collect these signatures is entirely voluntary.

Locally, training has been ongoing to educate interested participants about the need for tuition relief and how the measure will alleviate students’ financial burdens.

Senior print journalism major Umaymah Rashid of Fresno State currently heads most of the training sessions and visits various classes on campus to recruit volunteers. Although there are no set dates, volunteers will frequently be present this semester at the Free Speech area on campus or in front of Wal-Mart requesting signatures.

“We want the politicians to know that many of the same 434,000 people who signed this ballot were the ones who were working to get it passed,” Rashid said.

The Fresno State group is currently in the process of establishing itself as a campus club to increase their visibility among students.

According to Chris Vaeth, the campaign director for Tuition Relief Now, this will also be a good way to encourage students to become more politically active.

“It will be a stepping stone that will enhance students’ political power,” Vaeth said.

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