SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A petition started by two San Francisco State University graduate students urging California State University not to cut grants for low-income graduate students apparently did not fall on deaf ears.

Less than a week after Chancellor Charles Reed ordered that $90 million of financial aid be reallocated from tuition grants, abruptly eliminating a vital source of support for 20,000 grad students at all 23 CSU campuses, university officials announced the grant program had been saved.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

The cuts came without warning, much less public discussion, said Arielle Smith, a graduate student in the career counseling program at SF State.

“We thought it was a mistake until we went to the financial aid office and checked with them,” she said.

Nearly half the university system’s graduate student population was being offered a federal loan at 6.8 percent interest in lieu of a grant.

“We’ve been counting on this money to get us through,” Smith said, in many cases cramming in summer classes specifically to avoid taking out more loans than necessary.

So Smith and Hayley Leventhal, a fellow graduate student in her program, started gathering signatures to present to Chancellor Reed and the CSU campus presidents.

“When we started this petition, we hoped that it would get people’s attention, but it did a lot more than that,” Leventhal said.

A university spokesman said the decision Wednesday to reinstate tuition grants was made just before the students presented their petition.

Either way, Smith and Leventhal said, it would have been hard to ignore the thousands of signatures they collected in just a few days. The women believe California’s economy will be crippled over the long term if the state does not make funding education a priority.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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