Sen. Kevin de León Named AICCU “Policymaker of the Year”

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California’s segment of private, non-profit universities honor Sen. De León for his commitment to supporting access to higher education for all students.

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"Academically qualified, financially deserving California students at AICCU schools have a true ally in Senator De León," - Kristen Soares, AICCU President.

The Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) has named State Senator Kevin de León as the recipient of its "Policymaker of the Year" award, bestowed for his dedication to fighting for access to and opportunities in higher education for all students, regardless of their financial means. De León will be honored at Pepperdine University during the annual AICCU Presidents Retreat.

During the most recent legislative session, Senator De León worked tirelessly with students and higher education stakeholders, including AICCU, to author companion bills SB 284 and 285 that aim to create the College Access Tax Credit Fund. The Fund, generated by non-general fund monies and leveraging state and federal tax credits, would be dedicated to strengthening the Cal Grant program. Specifically, it would more than double the Cal Grant B Access Award for more than 177,000 financially needy students at very little cost to the state. Unfortunately, the Governor recently vetoed the bills due to a technical error in the bill language, but he commended the author for his innovative approach and urged him to resubmit the proposals for his signature in January. This effort is but one example of Senator De León’s commitment to California students, particularly those with limited financial means, to access any segment of higher education and succeed.

In addition, the Senator continued his fight for students during the budget process. A Cal Grant recipient himself during his undergraduate years at Pitzer College, an AICCU institution, the Senator was outspoken on the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, advocating the need to ensure Cal Grants serve all students, regardless of whether they attend a public or private university and arguing that reductions to the award are short-sighted.

“The taxpayers of California make a tremendous investment in our college graduates at our public schools, but also through Cal Grants to our students attending private schools,” Senator Kevin de León said. “College graduates are the most critical part of the engine that drives California’s economy. We must not only work to prevent the cuts, but take action to increase state support of education.”

Senator De León recognized that reductions to the maximum award for California students at private, nonprofit colleges and universities would embody a significant step backwards in the need to increase baccalaureate degree holders in California to meet the needs of the workforce and increase the competitiveness of California’s economy.

"Academically qualified, financially deserving California students at AICCU schools have a true ally in Senator De León," said Kristen Soares, AICCU's President. “He is an outstanding legislator. It’s not every day that you see a member of the legislature understand the specific needs of Californian students to this degree.”

President Andrew Benton of Pepperdine University, who serves as AICCU’s Executive Chair, echoed Ms. Soares’ sentiment, saying, “Senator De León’s leadership in advocating for educational equity and access for California’s neediest student populations is a testament to the mission of all AICCU member institutions to provide a quality education.”

The AICCU Policymaker of the Year Award is an annual award given to that individual who, more than any other, worked hard to assure that the contributions of California's independent, non-profit higher education sector are recognized as part of the solution to challenges facing this great state.

About AICCU:

Founded in 1955, the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) represents 75 private nonprofit colleges and universities in California. The core mission of AICCU institutions is to improve lives through higher education. AICCU institutions are committed to the public good and are incredibly diverse—ranging from large to small traditional liberal arts institutions, including nationally ranked research universities; colleges offering faith-based, performing and visual arts, and non-traditional" programs of study; as well as professional schools that specialize in business, law, medicine, and more. Accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is required for membership, as is fulfilling a public purpose through nonprofit status. In addition to providing creative and intellectual higher education resources to assure California's future economic vitality, AICCU institutions are major contributors to the economies of the regions they serve—as large employers and consumers of local goods and services. California’s partnership with its private nonprofit colleges and universities has played a pivotal role in the development of the state's model higher education offerings and in making California a symbol of innovation across the globe. For more information, visit

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