Starting next fall, a new program called the Middle Class Scholarship will offer a scholarship to students in California whose annual parental income is in the range of $100,000 to $150,000.
Late last year, California lawmakers voted to establish a California Middle Class Scholarship for students sending their undergraduate applications to the UC and to California State Universities. The maximum amount a UC student will be able to receive is a 40 percent tuition discount, with students holding an income of $100,000 receiving up to a 40 percent discount, while students with incomes up to $150,000 will be eligible to receive no more than a 10 percent tuition discount. For the 2014-2015 school year will be $1,707, but the amount is set to gradually increase until the 2017-2018 school year.
Accessed through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, the Middle Class Scholarship will make a huge difference in providing greater access to higher education in California, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.
“We are certainly in favor of this state program,” Klein said. “It’s estimated to help about thousands of UC students across the campuses be able to afford tuition.”
UCSB Director of Admissions of Financial Aid Michael Miller said the scholarship filled a void that has needed attention for a long time.
“This is a population of students that I have been concerned about for years, so I am happy the MCS is coming,” Miller said in an email. “We are still learning about the mechanics of the program, but the analysis we have done shows that a number of UCSB will qualify for the program.”
Emma Hevi, a second-year chemistry major, said she sees the MCA as a great opportunity for a large demographic of students to tap into a previously inaccessible pool of federal funds.
“You normally hear about need-based scholarships only really going to students whose family don’t make much,” Hevi said. “Some of us are middle class and above the cut-off but still struggle.”
Hevi said tuition costs have gotten out of control for many families, especially since it goes against the California Master Plan for Higher Education’s original mandate.
“I think it’s ridiculous that a UC education was originally supposed to be free, but now people can barely afford it,” Hevi said. “I think the scholarship is helpful, but it doesn’t fix the problem [of high tuition].”
Fourth-year history major Darlene Moreno said gaining access to such crucial aid can be the difference between attending school or not.
“The tuition is kind of ridiculous,” Moreno said. “I know it’s personally difficult not only because of housing to even live here but also food expenses. The fact that tuition is a lot of money doesn’t help the situation.”
According to Moreno, beyond offering aid to middle class families, there should also be more aid going toward families with multiple children in college.
“There are families with a couple of students going to college, and the parents have to pay a lot of tuition and a lot of fees,” Moreno said. “Just because they could afford education for one child doesn’t mean it’s not a lot for them to pay for two or more.”
Fourth-year English major Emily Segal said before this scholarship she, along with many of her friends, have not been able to qualify for anything other than loans.
“I don’t get any financial aid, and there’s four of kids from my family in college,” Segal said. “I don’t qualify for any aid or grants besides loans.”
Segal said a lot of student aid goes to families who make less annually, however middle class families still suffer, especially from hikes in tuition.
“I think that the middle class does struggle a lot,” Segal said. “I think [the scholarship] is a really good idea and will help with the gap of helping the middle class grow.”