As lawmakers negotiate a final compromise state budget for the next two years, they will be focused on many issues, from taxes and K-12 education spending to social services and the rainy day fund. Critical as all these issues are, we urge legislators also pay close attention to higher-education budget issues.
The House and Senate budgets should be applauded for providing significant funding for the College Bound Scholarship program. The College Bound program offers scholarships to needy students who sign up in middle school. Preliminary data suggest College Bound students are graduating from high school at higher rates than other students.
One issue that has received scant attention in current budget plans are the 32,000 low-income college students who qualify for the largest financial aid program (State Need Grant) but are not receiving grants because of a shortage of funds. These students are striving valiantly both to succeed in their studies and to find ways of financing their educations. We know because 29 percent of the eligible students at our ten colleges, and 28 percent at Saint Martin’s University, are not receiving state grants.