Students from across the University of California will rally today to ensure that the 2010-11 state budget expected to be released later this month includes funding for Cal Grants.

Organized by the UC Students Association, the actions will take place in Sacramento’s State Capitol Building and the governor’s Los Angeles office. Demonstrations will begin with a press conference at 1 p.m., during which time students, legislators and coalition partners will speak about the implications of educational state budget cuts and methods of tackling them.

A rally encouraging the preservation of Cal Grants and improved state investment in the public education system will be held following the discussion.

According to Adrian Benton, co-organizer for the UCSB Associated Students Student Commission on Racial Equality and a first-year political science and Spanish major, UCSB will send a delegation of 20 students to the L.A. rally. Aside from S.C.O.R.E., Benton said the A.S. External Vice President of Student Affairs interns and Student Lobby also helped organize the student coalition.

“If we don’t go, people don’t know that we care,” Benton said. “If we’re out there in masses, they realize how much it affects us and that we care about our education being cut.”

Additionally, student organizer Chris Ah San, a fourth-year student at UC Los Angeles, said protesters are mainly concerned about the merit of the Governor
Schwarzenegger’s guarantees, which are based on his January budget proposal that recommended eliminating the Competitive Cal Grant. Then on March 1, Schwarzenegger said that he will refuse to sign into effect a budget with any further cuts to the Cal Grant program.

“He designed this budget to fool people [into thinking] he’s helping Cal Grants when he’s made no commitment to do so,” Ah San said. “We don’t want him to eliminate Cal Grants as a way to throw open the doors to making many more cuts to the UC system.”

Additionally, UCSA Undergraduate Committee Chair Christopher Santos, a third-year student at UCLA, said cutting the program would force many minority students to eliminate the UC from their college options.

“The Cal Grant is California’s only financial aid program,” Santos said. “I think a UC without the Cal Grant would be threatened by lack of diversity to levels that we’ve never seen before. With the recent racial tensions at different UCs, that presents a real problem.”

In addition to influencing the governor’s budget decisions, Ah San said the demonstrations will raise student awareness about the issue. While last year’s budget preserved the Cal Grant, Ah San said the decision came with financial repercussions for all UC students.

“We want students to be aware so they can do more than react to it,” Ah San said. “Although Cal Grants were saved in the end last time, it essentially led to the 32 percent fee increase and other consequences because we had to focus on saving Cal Grants rather than education as a whole in our bargaining position.”

UCSA President Victor Sanchez, a fourth-year student at UC Santa Cruz, said the event will provide a chance for students to express thoughts about the future of the University.

“I hope it creates an opportunity for students to get out there and voice a need for attention to higher education,” Sanchez said. “I think at stake [today] is either conforming to the rhetoric presented to students and letting decisions sneak through the back door, or making it known that the governor’s promise won’t be enough to ensure affordable education to students.”