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Sierra College agrees to pay grants for spring

Full-time student relieved to have necessary expenses covered
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Elizabeth Barlow works two full-time jobs, one part-time job and goes to school full-time so there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room to find another way to make more money, she says. With news that the state may not fund Cal Grant recipients this semester, the Sierra College student was wondering how she would find another way to make the $735 she depends on to buy her schoolbooks. “It makes it a little more stressful,” Barlow said Friday. Cal Grants are funded by the state and provide free money to high school graduates who meet academic, financial and eligibility requirements to cover college-related expenses. Upon hearing that the state budget crises could mean the state controller’s office would issue IOUs instead of checks for grant recipients starting Feb. 1, Sierra College officials made a quick decision. Leo Chavez, College superintendent/president, and the Sierra College Foundation agreed to fund the grants this semester. The grants help close to 1,000 students and in total will cost about $394,000 to cover this semester. Chavez said the school is essentially advancing the money in hopes that the state will come through with the payments later. “At this point though, I honestly don’t know if I can trust the state to do anything it’s supposed to do,” Chavez said. Chavez admits that the college is taking a risk, but it’s one they feel they need to make to meet one of its primary goals: improve student success. “We can’t on one hand say we’re committed to their success and on the other hand not take reasonable steps to address the needs that might compromise their success,” Chavez said. The foundation has agreed to cover the difference if the state does not provide full reimbursement, which will cover the district’s liability. “This is definitely in line with the mission of the foundation to provide financial support to the college and its students,” said Sonbol Aliabadi, foundation executive director, in a news release. “The foundation realizes that these difficult financial times require out-of-the-box thinking and drastic measures.” Linda Williams, Sierra’s financial aid director, says prior to the news that the college would fund the grants, the office was filled with worried students. “There have been some long faces at the counter,” Williams said. Barlow said she was one of those until Williams told her the news Thursday. “I was surprised and relieved,” Barlow said. “It’s amazing that they would do that for all Cal Grant students counting on it.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.