Standing on the steps of the state Capitol in front of a row of cameras and microphones, Saint Mary’s sophomore Jessi Bailey told the gathered crowd that she and her family had done everything expected of them so she could attend college. They saved money; she took college prep classes and was on an easy path to college. But an injury to her father and a bad economy turned her plans upside down.
“If it were not for the Cal Grant I receive, I would not have been able to pursue my dream of a college education,” she said. “Because I get a Cal Grant, I am able to go the college of my choice, Saint Mary’s.”
Bailey was among a group of students who spoke at a press conference during the annual Cal Grant Lobby Day in favor of AB 1318, a bill by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D- Concord) which would establish a new funding formula for the Cal Grant to keep up with the rate of inflation. Cal Grant Lobby Day is sponsored by the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.
Bailey and Saint Mary’s students Riley Hopkins ’13 and Mostafa Wassel ’13 joined dozens of other students from independent colleges all over the state to lobby the California legislature to continue to fund the Cal Grant.
Going from office to office, the students told legislators about their unique stories and circumstances and how Cal Gant had allowed them to pursue their dream of going to college.
“When I was in high school, my parents went through a divorce and I found myself on my own,” Hopkins told Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D- Concord). “I went to the local community college and Cal Grant allowed me to continue with my education and transfer to Saint Mary’s.”
In between meetings, the students were treated to a VIP trip to the floor of the state senate by Senator DeSaulnier. While they were on the floor of the senate, Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) came in, and Hopkins spoke to him about the need for Cal Grant.
Wassel explained to Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon) that as a child of immigrant parents, he never planned to go to college. After high school he went to work as a real estate agent, but when the housing crisis hit, he enrolled in community college. Once at school, he realized he wanted to complete his education, and Cal Grant allowed him to transfer to Saint Mary’s. Now 28, he is pursuing a degree in politics.
“Without Cal Grant, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Wassel. “I know I would not be in school.”
By Tim Farley
Director of Community & Government Relations