Students, faculty, administrators and staff at private colleges and universities throughout California are celebrating the restoration of the full Cal Grant award in the 2015-2016 state budget June 16, 2015.

“As California’s higher education financial aid program, Cal Grant makes it possible for thousands of students to attend colleges and universities each year,” said Stephen Varvis, Ph.D., provost/senior vice president of Fresno Pacific University. The grants range to just over $9,000 and require students to have a high school grade point average of about 3.0 and maintain good grades in college. There are also maximum income levels for families. “This is not free money,” he said.

The reduction remained in the budget until the last hour, and those in the know said the cut was a done deal. Varvis lists several benefits of restoring the Cal Grant:

Many students wouldn’t be at independent colleges and universities without a Cal Grant.

“About 40 percent of FPU’s traditional undergraduate students, and many of our bachelor’s degree completion students—who study on our campuses in Merced, Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield—receive the Cal Grant,” he said.

Cal Grants to students at private colleges and universities increase access to higher education.

“The cut would have affected grants to students at private institutions only, limiting their ability to choose the education they feel is best for them,” Varvis said.

Cal Grants for students at independent institutions are a good deal for taxpayers.

“It costs the state much less to award Cal Grants to students at private colleges or universities than it does to send them to state institutions, where the public pays all the bills,” Varvis said. “And private institutions, especially non-profits, generally specialize in ‘student success’—high retention and graduation rates. FPU has the highest four-year graduation rate of any Central Valley college or university, is a Hispanic Serving Institution, with a Hispanic student population of 35 percent, and is one of the top 10 HSIs nationally in graduating Hispanic students.

Graduates of private regional colleges and universities, such as FPU, come from the area surrounding the institution and stay there after graduation, using their education to improve their communities.

“It is often said that among the great things about California are its public higher education systems,” Varvis said. “What should be said more often is that among the great things about California are its institutions of private higher education, some of the greatest in the world. This is also true for California’s Christian colleges and universities, educational communities with distinct missions in scholarship and learning, service and training, spiritual and ethical leadership.”

As part of its campaign to restore the Cal Grant that included social media, letter writing, a press conference with Assembly Member Henry T. Perea and visits to legislators in Sacramento, FPU student group Friday Night Live distributed badges. “Mine said ‘private grant, public good,’” Varvis said. “And this is the point: higher education helps everyone because university graduates bring knowledge to their professions and communities. In its FPU form that education includes the whole student and, as we like to say, empowers leaders and transforms lives.” Frday Night Live Co-Presidents Karina Reyes (left) and Jane Salcedo are shown in the photo above.

More about the Cal Grant from the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) at



Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations