UC Berkeley officials announced plans for a new financial aid program targeting students from middle-income families that introduces a tuition cap relative to household income.
The “Middle Class Access Program” will begin next school year and ensures that parents earning between $80,000 and $140,000 annually will only pay tuition up to 15 percent of their yearly income. The campus will also spend $10 to 12 million of its $2 billion budget on financial assistance for students with families earning under $80,000 and paying no tuition.
In a statement issued on Dec. 14, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said higher living costs and the ongoing effects of the state budget crisis have contributed to growing financial burdens among median-income households.
“[There have been] early signs that middle-income families who cannot access existing assistance programs are straining to meet college costs,” Birgeneau said in the press release. “As a public institution we feel strongly that we need to sustain and expand access across the socio-economic spectrum.”
The new program will help close the monetary coverage gap for families currently unqualified for aid, Birgeneau said.
The program will rely on a combination of private donations, discretionary funds and additional tuition from out-of-state students to avoid imposing higher expenses on students or using funds from academic and extracurricular programs, according to the campus’ Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Mogulof.
“This is a priority for us,” Mogulof said. “I think we came up with a way to do this without affecting other programs.”
Dianne Klein, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said adopting the program for other UC campuses is unlikely due to their lack of similarly high levels of private funding and philanthropic support.
Despite speculation claiming the financial aid is a result of student protests condemning tuition hikes and other UC system budgetary issues, Mogulof said administrators spent years creating the program to preserve the campus’ quality.