August 10, 2016

Minority students make their case and win 

Legislators back down from bill to cut aid after more than 100,000 Californians sign petition against SB1146

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Low-income African-American and Latino students seeking higher education in California won big today: state legislators backed down from pushing a discriminatory bill that would have cut them off from crucial state aid. 

A new website (also available en Español) and a series of videos helped turn the tide against SB 1146, explaining how the bill victimizes poor African-American and Latino students – many of whom are the first in their families to attend college – by forcing them to drop out of college or into failing state schools with dismal graduation rates for minorities. The website was circulated to over 15 million California voters, and over 100,000 immediately responded by signing a petition opposing SB 1146.

“Minority students have spoken, and the politicians have listened. This is a huge win for progress and diversity in higher education,” said Montserrat Alvarado at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Now students from disadvantaged backgrounds can continue to have equal opportunity for success and equal freedom to choose schools that meet their needs.” 

A large coalition of state and national religious leaders joined legal experts in condemning the bill’s plan to “cut a program that exists to help low-income students, and which is overwhelmingly used by racial minorities.” They also questioned why lawmakers would want to “make it harder for Latinos and other minorities to receive an education.” A new report from the legislature raised similar concerns, noting that Cal Grant students could be forced to “discontinue their education” and that the blow to the minority community would come at “significant” cost to state taxpayers. The increased public understanding of SB 1146 quickly led one legislative co-author to rush to drop his name from the bill late last week, and made the primary author gut the bill today.

The case against SB 1146 was simple. Three out of four Cal Grant recipients at religious colleges are low-income minorities. By cutting off their ability to use Cal Grants at religious colleges, SB 1146 would push minorities out of religious schools that do a better job of graduating minorities and into failing state schools. For instance, Fresno Pacific graduates over 70 percent of Latinos within 4 years, compared to the California State University system that graduates only about 10 percent. And because state schools are heavily subsidized, taxpayers would end up paying about $100 million more per year for lower quality education.  

“Today’s victory is evidence that politicians do not have free reign to discriminate and silence minority voices,” said Alvarado

###

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketfund.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


AUGUST 10, 2016

Minority college students speak out against SB 1146

New videos explaining how SB 1146 hurts low-income minority students sent to 15 million Calif. voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Videos featuring the personal stories of minority college students who would be harmed if California politicians pass SB 1146 were shared with over 15 million California voters yesterday. In the videos, the students explain how SB 1146 will take Cal Grants from lower-income students who, like themselves, attend California colleges with religious affiliations.  

The videos are featured on a website launched last week that explains how SB 1146 victimizes poor African-American and Latino students. Over 100,000 California voters have already added their names to a petition opposing SB 1146 for its unfair harm to minority students.

Three out of four Cal Grant recipients at religious colleges are low-income minorities. By cutting off their ability to use Cal Grants at religious colleges, SB 1146 would push minorities out of religious schools that do a better job of graduating minorities, and into failing state schools. For example, Fresno Pacific University graduates over 70 percent of Latinos within 4 years, compared to the California State University system that graduates only 10 percent. And because state schools are heavily subsidized, taxpayers would end up paying about $100 million more per year for less quality education. 

The new videos share the stories of Deja Alewine, Jorge Cubillos, and Leonel Loera, three Fresno Pacific University students from low-income minority backgrounds:

  • "The people considering SB 1146 really need to understand the impact this bill will have on people's education,” says Deja Alewine, an African-American student who comes from a single-parent household. “This impacts our lives. It impacts our future. ”

  • “My parents originally came here because they were farm workers. It was only because I received a Cal Grant … that school became an option for me,” says Jorge Cubillos, who was the first in his family to attend college. “SB 1146, if it passes, it’s going to hold back a lot of students. It’s going to hold back a lot of potential. Future leaders, future inventors, future teachers. It’s going to hold back progress.”

  • “There are a lot of students out there like me who are heavily supported by the Cal Grant,” says Leonel Loera, a journalism student at Fresno Pacific University. “Without it, we won’t be able to accomplish our dreams.”

###

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketfund.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


August 3, 2016

3 of 4 students harmed by new Calif. bill are poor minorities

New website explains how state’s attempt to cut costs harms low-income African-American and Latino students

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  California politicians are considering a measure today that cuts off crucial state aid for low-income minority students, this time by discriminatorily cutting it for students who choose to attend private religious colleges. A new website explains how SB 1146 victimizes poor minority students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college and would either have to drop out of college or be pushed into failing state schools with dismal graduation rates for minorities.

California’s legislature has recently repeatedly proposed cuts to the long-standing Cal Grant program. Cal Grants provide funding for low-income students, three out of four whom are minorities. After failing in a bid to cut Cal Grants for all private colleges last year, the legislature is now considering a move to cut aid for students attending certain private religious colleges. But religious schools have high 4-year graduation rates, roughly double the rate of state schools. And because state schools come with high state subsidies, taxpayers could end up footing hundreds of millions of dollars more in costs if students get forced out of the private religious schools of their choice and into state schools.

“SB 1146 represents politics at its worst,” says Montserrat Alvarado of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “Whatever the political spin, the reality is that SB 1146 directly harms California’s most vulnerable students—many of whom are the first in their families to go to college—and will cost California taxpayers hundreds of millions.”

SB 1146 will most severely harm California’s African-American and Latino students. Such students disproportionately come from communities that are both deeply religious and financially disadvantaged. They enjoy very high rates of success at religious colleges like Fresno Pacific University, which graduates 60 percent of African-Americans and 70 percent of Latinos within 4 years. But by comparison, the California State University system—where most poor minorities would be funneled if SB 1146 passes—manages to graduate only about 9 percent of African Americans and Latinos in 4 years. 

“SB 1146 discriminates against poor minorities,” says Alvarado. “It lets politicians squeeze minorities for a few short-term dollars, and comes at the long-term cost of wrecked dreams and higher taxes.”

SB 1146 is scheduled to be heard by a legislative committee today at 9 a.m. PST, to receive a vote in committee by Aug. 12, and could end up before the legislature for a vote by Aug. 19. If it passed, the governor would then have until the end of September to decide whether to veto it.

###

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket Fund attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at media@becketfund.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.