Gavin Santos is not the sort of student anyone would expect would have trouble getting through college.


A 2009 Hesperia High School graduate, Santos was a star running back for the Scorpions, president of the ASB, a National Honor Society member and an A student. After graduation, he headed to California State University, Long Beach, pursuing a degree in business.


"Last year, I qualified for a Cal Grant and they gave me $4,200," Santos said Thursday. "This year, about a month ago, I got an email that I wasn't going to qualify this year."


His $4,200 Cal Grant previously covered about 75 percent of his annual tuition at CSULB.


The loss of Santos' financial aid came at the same time as rising tuition costs.


When Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget on June 30, it included cuts to higher education, including a $650 million cut to the California State University system. The Cal State trustees had already agreed upon a 10 percent tuition increase last November. In response to the 2011-12 budget, the trustees voted on July 12 to raise tuition by an additional 12 percent. (And the Cal State system isn't alone in raising tuition: Tuitions have tripled at the University of California over the past decade.)


"He's done all the right things he's supposed to," said Diane Rodriguez, the career center specialist at Oak Hills High School, who previously advised Santos at Hesperia High.


Not all Cal Grant money is gone poor students and those with exceptionally high grades are still receiving the money but many middle class students are finding themselves too well-off to qualify for grant money their families had been counting on.


As a result, "I'd say probably 15 to 20 percent" of Oak Hills graduates will end up going to a two-year college instead of a four-year college instead, Rodriguez said. "To me, even one student is unacceptable."


And students who choose to attend a two-year community college like Victor Valley College instead of a four-year UC or CSU school may still find themselves scrambling for cash, because Cal Grant eligibility is determined on a per-site basis.


"Some of those students that were going to Cal State San Bernardino, will end up going to VVC and paying cash out of their pocket," said Rodriguez, "because they don't qualify for Cal Grant at VVC."


And previously four-year students switching to VVC will put a strain on that system, in a ripple effect.


"It's kind of like going Bear Valley Road on a Friday night," Rodriguez said.


Rodriguez is advising parents to check the California Student Aid Commission website (http://www.csac.ca.gov/) to verify their students are still receiving Cal Grant money and to call their schools' financial aid office to determine what the budget cuts' impact will be for their family.


As for Santos, he will keep attending CSULB, but he'll be taking on an additional financial burden and will have to spend more hours in the week earning the money to attend school, instead of studying.


"I took out a loan through the school that will cover the tuition and I'm looking for a second job," he said. "This summer I've been working for my family, just trying to pay the rent."


"To me, this is so wrong," said Rodriguez. "These kids are trying to climb the ladder of success and the state needs to cut somewhere else."


Santos understands the need for legislators to balance the budget, but believes there were better ways to do so.


"I'd probably ask them to help us out in some way, even a low-interest loan that could replace the Cal Grant," he said. "Even that would be better than just cutting us off completely."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.