Cruz Grimaldo: ‘I see my former self in our students’

Cruz Grimaldo, wearing blue, smiles on the steps of Sproul Plaza

Cruz Grimaldo runs UC Berkeley’s financial aid office. (UC Berkeley photo)

Cruz Grimaldo, assistant vice chancellor and director of financial aid and scholarships, helps make college a reality for students who – like her former self – wouldn’t be able to attend Berkeley without financial assistance.

I am very grateful for the financial aid that I received as a low-income student when I was a student here at Berkeley. I’m the fifth director of Financial Aid and Scholarships and the first who is Chicanx identified. This perspective has proven helpful in thinking about how to best deliver resources and support to our students.

We either award or help coordinate about $750 million a year to about 25,000 students. We know that, especially for our low-income students, if they didn’t have the resources that we’re able to provide, they wouldn’t be able to attend Berkeley.

Those students are adding so much value to the classrooms from their unique perspective and are positively influencing the knowledge production for which our campus is proud. We’re helping students individually, but we’re also helping the institution in the creation of knowledge that’s going to solve the world’s big problems.

I co-chair the campus Chicanx/Latinx Standing Committee that is charged to advise the chancellor’s cabinet on matters impacting the Chicanx/Latinx community. We are invested in, and poised to fully support, the thoughtful planning and implementation of our campus becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution. I also lead both the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, (which is) a team of about 50 professionals, as well as Cal Student Central, a team of about 15 professionals. We also employ over 20 students in these two departments. I feel very fortunate to work in such a rich and stimulating environment that truly aligns with my values.
One of my proudest professional moments was when the state law changed and allowed us to award scholarship dollars to undocumented students. In the years since that launched, we’ve been able to grow that population by 175%. I’m really thankful to award a whole population of students that just had been left out for so long.

I love that the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office and Cal Student Central are high-performing teams that feel like family, with a strong sense of care for each other. Our goal is that this care permeates out to our students and campus partners.

I see my former self in our students, and I see the future in our students. We’re granting access to students, and that access is changing the entire trajectory of their lives, as it did for me.”