Valley Parents Are the Focus of UC Merced Grant

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.

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