As University of California annual student fees exceed the $10,000 mark, the UC Office of the President is attempting to offer aid to more low-income families than ever before.
The UC Board of Regents voted unanimously last year to modify the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan — a system-wide financial aid plan that fully covers the tuition fees of California residents whose families earn less than $60,000 — to include households that earn up to $70,000, accounting for almost half of families in the state. Under the improved plan, undergraduates who are enrolled at the University during their first four years, or transfer students who are registered for two years, will have their fees covered by scholarships and/or grants.
UCOP spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said the goal of this plan is to ensure that students are not deterred from attending the UC because of lack of funds.
“We want to preserve access,” Vazquez said. “We enroll more low-income students than all other schools. We do not want any students to be shut out of the UC education because they cannot afford it.”
Despite the rising cost of attaining a UC education, Mike Miller, UCSB Office of Financial Aid associate director of operations, said lower income families should not have the door shut on them.
“Any time additional financial aid is made available and any time we can send the message of accessibility, then we are certainly helping students achieve their dream of attending a world class university like UCSB,” Miller said.
Moreover, Miller said the program will fund every cent of their $10,302 tuition.
“If a student is UC-eligible and their household income is less than $70,000, they can qualify for enough financial aid to cover their mandatory UC fees,” Miller said.
Aside from meeting the household income requirement, Miller said students must also be California residents. Although there is no separate application for the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, students must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 2 and apply for a Cal Grant.
“I think it is important that students review the eligibility criteria to see if they will be B&G eligible, especially application deadlines,” Miller said. “There is not a separate application for the program, but students should educate themselves about the financial aid application process in general.”
However, Vazquez said students who don’t meet the extra requirements of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan should nevertheless apply for the FAFSA as they can still receive aid, either to cover the cost of books or room and board.
“If you do not qualify for the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, you could qualify for grants and other awards depending on family circumstances,” Vazquez said. “The Blue and Gold Plan is a minimum.”
Miller also said financial aid can be an option beyond the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan.
“I would say that the one drawback in my mind of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan is that it can potentially be misleading to families with incomes over the $70,000 threshold,” Miller said. “I think we not only need to educate families that will be B&G eligible, but we also need to ensure that families who will not fit into this demographic know that they also have financial aid options.”