Valley Voices

Joseph I. Castro: Pell Grant helped pave my road to college

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Nov. 8, 1965, I’d like to offer my personal insights into the impact of this life-changing legislation.

The HEA allowed the dreams of a boy from Hanford – who was willing to work hard but had very limited financial resources – to come true. I am one of the millions who have received Pell Grants, which allow students with little means to access higher education.

I can unequivocally say that without this funding, I would have not been able to attend and graduate from one of the top public universities in the nation, much less reach my current leadership position.

Pell Grant funding has increased over the years, but the maximum grant award has actually decreased. I am concerned that without the grant dollars needed in today’s college market, fewer nontraditional students – who make up the majority of Fresno State’s enrollment – will be able to attend college.

Fresno State is working hard to keep our costs manageable while providing a quality education. The San Joaquin Valley desperately needs more college-educated citizens, especially in science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math (STEAM) related careers.

I hope that today’s federal legislators will have the bold insights of their predecessors in providing the means for all talented and hard-working students to get a higher education. These students are poised to be among the next generation of leaders, very possibly including a future president of Fresno State.

Joseph I. Castro, Ph.D., M.P.P., is president of Fresno State; Twitter: @JosephICastro