California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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Response: Financial Aid Editorials

Dear Editor and Staff Advisor,

I was greatly disturbed by the two financial aid related articles published in yesterday’s Pioneer.  As a onetime journalism major, I expect our student reporters to both examine difficult issues and to provide a voice for students’ grievances.  This journalistic duty, however, carries the responsibility for balanced reporting, and I see little effort to seek balance in either article.

Anthony Johnson’s article was rich with personal accounts from students dissatisfied with Financial Aid and Admissions.  In fact, he asserted “there were no students found whom didn’t at least have one thing to say about how unreliable, uninformative, or untrustworthy the Financial Aid & Admissions office is.”  Of course, if he only interviewed students in line at the EIC counter, he would likely encounter many students there to resolve problems.  Had he sought out students in line at Subway or Starbucks, I’m certain at least some comments would be positive.

I always grant interviews to student reporters and had Mr. Johnson interviewed me, I would have explained that my staff doesn’t determine Pell Grant eligibility.  I would have been able to tell him that the Federal Student Aid programs strictly define circumstances that deem a student “independent” for financial aid purposes.  It would have been great to tell  him about my staff of counselors and their supervisor, who are exempt from overtime pay, but work ten hour days and many Saturdays because they are dedicated to students.

The editorial written by Rishi Khalsa, Cal Grant is Failing Students, contained a serious inaccuracy that could have been clarified had the reporter interviewed a representative from the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) or a member of the campus Financial Aid staff. Absent an interview, she could have read the Cal Grant eligibility guidelines published by CSAC and available on their website.

Mr. Khalsa erroneously states that educational level is a factor in determining eligibility for Cal Grants.  The truth is most Cal Grant awards are made for four full years.  High School graduates, who win a Cal Grant, start with 400% eligibility.  They exhaust 100% of their eligibility during every academic year they receive the grant, regardless of educational level.  If a student only attends half of the year, only 50% of that year’s 100% is used.  For these students, educational level is not a factor.  CSAC does expect high school graduates to complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.  Realistic or not, this is the expectation.

Some upper division students do win Cal Grants with duration shorter than four years.  These individuals are usually awarded a lesser grant because they are closer to their degree objective. In these instances, awards can be determined using the length of time remaining in a student’s Cal Grant eligible program, and students closer to their degree objective win awards with shorter durations.  Educational level is simply a mechanism by which an institution measures proximity to degree.

CSAC and the State of California made changes to Cal Grant eligibility requirements this year, via Senate Bill 70, and these changes are limiting Cal Grant eligibility for many continuing students.  There is a story here, and I hope a student reporter will be interested in writing it.

I would be glad to provide the Pioneer staff with information regarding my office and the financial aid programs we are charged with administering.  In the future, I hope these two writers will embrace accuracy and balance as cornerstones of great journalism.



Rhonda Johnson

Executive Director, Financial Aid

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California State University East Bay
Response: Financial Aid Editorials