Academy of Art sues over Cal Grants

San Francisco’s Academy of Art University has filed suit against the California Student Aid Commission, alleging the agency relied on outdated figures when it yanked $1.2 million in Cal Grants from students just before the start of the fall semester.

About 100 incoming Academy of Art students had Cal Grant funding pulled completely, while another 350 returning students saw their grants slashed by 20 percent after CSAC said the university failed to reach a new 30 percent graduation rate threshold established in June.

CSAC used 2010-11 graduation figures for their determination, while the university argues more recent data — preliminary 2011 graduation rates from the U.S. Department of Education — should have been used instead.

The data used by CSAC showed a graduation rate of 29.2 percent for Academy of Art in 2010-11. The preliminary 2011 rate from the Department of Education is 34 percent.

CSAC Executive Director Diana Fuentes-Michel wrote to the school in August, saying that the preliminary rates had not been verified and could not be used to certify the school:

“We can’t make official an unofficial rate.”

A representative from the university told SFBay last month the school would provide “presidential scholarships” for any students affected by the cut.

About 18,000 undergraduate, graduate and certificate students attend Academy of Art University. Many of the school’s campuses, student housing and other facilities pepper The City’s downtown and South of Market neighborhoods.