Students across the UC system could potentially receive more financial aid next academic year than ever before.

The UC Board of Regents amended the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan — a UC financial aid policy that fully covers student fees for California residents whose families earn less than $70,000 — last November to accommodate students whose annual household incomes reach up to $80,000. The original plan set the threshold at $60,000.

Although student fees will spike by eight percent during the 2011-12 academic year, Michael Miller, Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships director, said 33 percent of the funding accumulated from the tuition increases will be allotted to financial aid. In-state students whose families earn less than $120,000 will also receive a one-year fee deferral for next year’s $822 fee increase.

“Next year the income ceiling [of the B&G program] is changing so hopefully more students will qualify for the program,” Miller said. “The fee increase program is primarily designed to help the middle-income students. As of this moment, in 2011-12 the program will cover the eight percent fee increase for students who would normally not qualify for grant funds.”

Moreover, Todd Lee, Office of Budget and Planning assistant chancellor, said the fee hikes will generate $180 million in UC revenue and $63 million for aid.

Because more money is accumulated in the financial aid budget after each fee hike, Lee said overall aid for the campus has grown gradually over the years. UCSB’s financial aid budget consisted of nearly $17 million in the early 2000s.

According to Miller, there are three distinct sources of assistance: federal, state and university. Despite the nation’s fiscal crisis, the U.S. Dept. of Education decided yesterday to maintain the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,550 for the upcoming school year. The grant can provide $400 to $5,550 in assistance on a need-basis to undergraduate students who have not earned bachelor’s degrees.

The Cal Grant Program will also increase support from $10,302 to $11,124 for the upcoming year. While this will compensate for the eight percent student fee increase for those who qualify for aid, Miller said it’s unclear whether any further increases will be made to offset Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $500 million cut to UC state funding.

Christian Villasenor, Graduate Division assistant dean, said it is too early to predict how potential budget cuts could impact federal financial contributions.

“All of us look forward to having more concrete answers in the upcoming months,” Villasenor said.

At the local level, UCSB’s Office of Financial Aid disburses almost $53 million in grants a year.

Lee also said student lock-in fees contain a financial aid component so each student referenda measure adds money to the financial aid budget.

In order to qualify for aid, California residents must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by March 2.