Angel Rodriguez, a higher education advocate who holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside and is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration and policy at the UCR School of Education, was recently appointed by Gov. Newsom to the California Student Aid Commission.
“Learning at UCR, one of America’s most diverse universities, strengthened my desire to advocate for educational opportunities for students of all backgrounds. I am grateful to Gov. Newsom for appointing this proud Highlander to the California Student Aid Commission and for the opportunity to serve my state in a meaningful way,” Rodriguez said.
His message to students: Oct. 1 is the time to apply for financial aid. It can make a difference.
He should know. Midway through completing his undergraduate degree at UCR, Rodriguez’s family lost their home and small business during the recession of 2008. Cal Grants and a part-time job helped Rodriguez become the first in his immigrant family to graduate from college.
FAFSA, the federal government’s financial aid application, “was key to helping me and my family bounce back educationally and economically,” Rodriguez said.
The California Dream Act Application also opens Oct. 1, and he urges undocumented and eligible nonresident students to apply. Doing so is essential to receive Cal Grants, which are need-based grants offered by the State of California that do not have to be paid back. Both applications need to be filled out every year.
The California Student Aid Commission has an online chatbot and call center for people with questions. The phone number of the helpline is (888) 224-7268.
The California Student Aid Commission is the principal state agency that administers financial aid programs for students attending public and private colleges and universities. It consists of 15 appointed members who work with elected lawmakers to set policy.
“Our focus is making college financially accessible to all Californians,” Rodriguez said. “We look at policies and try to simplify them, making it easier for students to get money for college and career training.”
“Seven out of 10 students lost all or some income during the pandemic,” he said, highlighting the vast need the Commission is currently trying to meet. “The state is awarding about $2.7 billion in Cal Grants.”
Rodriguez will lead the committee that oversees communications to help reimagine how the commission talks about financial aid.
“We recognize that most students in our state come from humble beginnings. Often, they are the first in their families to pursue higher education, or they speak English as a second language,” he said. “Whether through in-person workshops or online, we’re working to make financial aid easier to understand so that more Californians apply and reach their college and career goals.”
He said his graduate work at the School of Education has given him more tools to advocate for student achievement.
“Angel’s background mirrors the life experiences of California’s diverse students. He is knowledgeable and has a deep commitment to helping others be successful. He is exactly the type of representative we need to serve on the California Student Aid Commission,” said Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), a UCR alumnus and chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.
Since 2016, Rodriguez has served as senior director of marketing, public affairs, and government relations at the San Bernardino Community College District, where he negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino to establish a year-round help desk inside the consulate to assist families with the FAFSA and California Dream Act Application. Previously, he was associate director of state and regional government and community relations for UCR.
“I have witnessed Angel’s dedication to students,” said State Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “I am confident he will bring his professional acumen and personal commitment to social equity to promote the work of the commission.”