Obama Floats Plan to Keep College Affordable
During his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced a proposal which would tie federal student aid to “responsible campus tuition policies.” This proposal would shift federal aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down and divert it toward those colleges that “do their fair share” to keep college affordable. This action requires congressional legislation, but none has been introduced thus far. We will be monitoring this issue very closely. So far, no formula for affordability has been announced.
Insurance Plans at Catholic Colleges
The Obama administration recently announced plans that would require health insurance policies offered by religious organizations, including Catholic colleges, to cover all government-approved contraceptives for their employees. This measure would require all Catholic colleges to pay for services which may go against these organizations’ teachings and belief, such as contraception measures opposed by the Church. However, due to opposition from many, including Brother Ronald Gallagher, the president modified his position. Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees, but insurers must offer free birth control coverage to women who work at these institutions. However, existing state law, which mandates coverage, continues to apply to Saint Mary’s.
The U.S. Conference of Bishops initially called the compromise "a good first step" but later released a strongly worded statement expressing “serious moral concerns” about the proposal and calling on the administration to rescind the mandate entirely. It also called on Catholics to oppose the measure in order to “protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.” The bishops’ full statement can be found online.
Cal Grant Funding Threatened in Proposed State Budget
The 2012-13 proposed California state budget released by Governor Jerry Brown reduces funding for all Cal Grant recipients who attend private institutions by about 44%. If the budget as proposed were to be approved, it would mean a $2.9 million cut to the more than 660 Saint Mary’s students who have been awarded a Cal Grant for next year. Major advocacy efforts are underway to restore Cal Grant funding to the 2011-12 level. Legislative budget hearings will be held throughout the spring. We will be taking a major leadership role in the advocacy on this issue. If you have not already done so, please visit our Help Save Cal Grant page.
Get Ready for the 2012 Elections
The 2012 election season is off to a fast start. The filing window for state elections is currently open. With the newly redistricted legislative and congressional districts, the Lamorinda area will see a new member of the state Assembly and a new member of Congress. Also, District II County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema will be retiring, so we will have a new county supervisor as well.
As a reminder, all U.S. citizens who are 18 years of age or older may vote. You must be registered by May 21 to vote in our statewide primary election on June 5. Voter registration forms are available at the Registrar's Office and in my office at 121 Brother Jerome West Hall.
Director of Community and Government Relations