Courtesy of California Student Aid Commission

Last March, UCR undergraduate alumni and current graduate student, Angel Rodriguez, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom onto the California Student Aid Commission. CSAC is the state-run financial aid agency that caters programs such as the Free Application for Student Aid and DREAM Act to California higher-education students. Overseeing a total of $2.7 billion in student aid, it is the largest student aid commission in the nation.

Like the CSAC, Rodriguez is dedicated to “easing the pathway to higher education for students,” according to his appointee description on the commission’s website. The committee appoints 15 members in total.

Since graduating from UCR, Rodriguez has taken up multiple office positions, including Senior Director of Public Affairs at the San Bernardino Community College District, Associate Director of State and Regional and other positions in Riverside’s Office of the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce. He is now pursuing a master’s degree in education at UCR’s School of Education, which is one of the most prestigious education schools in Southern California. 

During his time as an undergraduate, Rodriguez and his family were affected by the 2008 Recession, where they lost their home and small business. To make ends meet, he picked up a retail job and applied for Cal Grants, which in turn would lead to his successful completion of his degree.

Realizing the importance of financial aid, especially for students in California, he wishes to pass the benefits he managed to receive onto others that may find themselves in the same position. Like many at UCR, he is the son of immigrant parents and a first-generation college graduate.

“One of the reasons I love higher education is because that’s what saved me and my family,” he stated in a discussion with the Campaign for College organization. “We need to do everything we can so students can afford college and get to the finish line.”

One of his current goals is related to the financial impacts of COVID-19. “It’s a dream to serve with the dedicated people at @castudentaif as we work to help students bounce back from the pandemic,” he stated in a recent Tweet.

In a statement to the UCR Public Information news website, he stated, “Seven out of 10 students lost all or some incomes during the pandemic.”

During his time in various office positions, he caught the attention of lawmakers and local government officials. Riverside Assembly member Jose Medina described how Rodriguez’s experience mirrored that of many other Californians pursuing a degree in this state, and that “he is exactly the type of representative we need to serve on the California Student Aid Commission.”

State Senator Connie Leyva also stated that she is “confident he will bring his professional acumen and personal commitment to social equity to promote the work of the commission.”

In 2021, due to the Newsom administration’s goal of expanding college opportunities to young Californians, the governor signed multiple college aid bills amounting to $47.1 billion in higher education packages. This is the largest state investment related to higher education passed in California. 

“We’re turning commitments into reality by ensuring that our students have more access to high-quality educational opportunities, creating a change of course for generations to come and bolstering California’s innovation economy,” stated Gov. Newsom in a publication by the Office of the Governor website.

Campaign for College asked Rodriguez about changes to Cal Grant prompted by the bills, which they have termed #CABudget. “The #CABudget makes historic investments to remove age and time-out-of-high-school barriers,” he answered, “ensuring more students can access financial aid and college dreams.”

Other passed legislation is seeing that college becomes more accessible through other outlets, such as easing the transfer process from community college to four-year institutions and expanding qualifications for achieving financial aid. A full list of specified laws passed under the higher education package can be found in this article by the office of the governor website.