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Valley Parents Are the Focus of UC Merced Grant

February 27, 2004

Unique proposal wins approval by the California Student Aid Commission

MERCED, CA— GPAs. Entrance exams. Financial
aid. Interest rates. In the San Joaquin Valley, where almost a
quarter of households live below the poverty line and educational
attainment is staggeringly low, parents often feel overwhelmed with
the academic and financial concepts connected with sending their
child to college. The confusion usually translates into a lack of
support for their child’s long-term educational achievement.

A new grant recently obtained by UC Merced’s Center for
Educational Partnership (CEP) will seek to remedy the problem by
establishing the Parent Empowerment Program. The primary goal of
the program is to empower low-income parents, boosting their
understanding so they are able to help their children navigate the
myriad issues related to both financing a higher education and
gaining admission to a college or university.

The program will consist of several workshops. Parents will
first learn the role of each higher education system in California
and learn financial literacy matters such as interest rate accrual
and the differences between checking, savings and certification of
deposit accounts. They will then be introduced to financial aid
concepts such as the differences between need-based and merit-based
aid. The final workshop will build on the acquired knowledge and
guide parents in completing a Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA) form for their child.

“By arming parents with this knowledge, we hope to increase the
number of high school seniors and transfer-bound community college
students who enroll in higher education and who apply for a Cal
Grant for fall 2004 enrollment,” said Jorge Aguilar, director of
the CEP.

Cal Grant awards are state-funded monetary grants given to
students to help pay for college expenses. The awards do not have
to be paid back.

High schools and community colleges in the Valley with an
exceptionally low number of Cal Grant recipients during the
2002-2003 academic year were chosen to participate in the Parent
Empowerment Program. Given the diversity of the Valley, all
workshops will be communicated in English, Spanish and a variety of
Southeast Asian languages.

The competitively bid grant was awarded by the California
Student Aid Commission in the amount of $361,548. It was one of 15
proposals accepted of the total 46 received.