Le Grande eager to take up student-aid challenge

Nominated in November by Gov. Jerry Brown, Harry Le Grande will join the California Student Aid Commission on the heels of a unanimous vote in the state Senate, which approved the appointment of UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for student affairs to the statewide agency earlier this month.

“I feel that I bring a certain level of experience in student affairs to the table, and I’m hopeful I can put that working knowledge to good use with the commission,” said Le Grande.

The primary agency responsible for administering financial-aid programs for students attending colleges, universities and vocational schools throughout the state, the commission is tasked with making higher education financially accessible to all Californians. It managed $1.6 billion in funding last year.

“For the last few years, Cal Grants always seems to be on the chopping block,” Le Grande said. “Hopefully, we’ll see an increase in funding, but one of my primary goals is to ensure that there are no further reductions in Cal Grants.”

The 15-member commission, which was established by the Legislature in 1955, also provides policy analysis and leadership in partnership with schools, statewide associations and financial institutions.

“Historically, the commission has always worked out of Sacramento, so another major priority for me is to expand our presence by moving some of our meetings down to Southern California,” Le Grande said.

Building capacity and outreach efforts beyond higher education and down through the K-12 system also ranks high on his agenda, he added.

“If support programs aren’t highly visible in schools throughout the state, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for families and students to plan for, and ultimately access, college,” Le Grande said.