The University of California Board of Regents unanimously passed a plan last month that would establish a minimum level of gift-assistance for families whose income is lower than $60,000 a year.
The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, passed Feb. 5, is the university’s promise to lower-income families that their children can afford a four-year university, starting in the fall of 2009.
“This plan is intended not only to make our financial aid message clearer, but to encourage more low-income students to apply to the University of California,“ said UC President Mark G. Yudof in a press release. “There is no better time than during this period of economic hardship to reassure families and students that UC is financially accessible.“
Previously, financial aid advisors could not definitively say what kind of aid these families would receive because the amount would depend on several different variables. The plan guarantees systemwide UC gift-aid to lower-income families, no matter the variables.
The benefits will extend to reach approximately 48,100 California students. Seventy percent of UC Davis students already use some kind of financial aid, according to Katy Maloney, interim director of the financial aid office.
“The vast majority of these students already receive enough grant assistance from UC, state and federal programs to cover their fees,” Maloney said in an e-mail interview. “About 1,100 UC students, however, will have their UC systemwide fees fully covered for the first time under the Blue and Gold Plan.“
The plan is intended to bring more low-income students to UC schools, in an effort to diversify and broaden the reach of the university.
“So many families are sitting around their kitchen tables and wondering how their children are going to get higher education,” said Ricardo Vasquez, UC spokesperson. “Our hope is that this will encourage students to go to college, when previously money might have been the only thing preventing them from that goal.“
The funds for the plan will be derived from UC’s financial aid reserves, which previously set aside 33 percent of their total budget. It will now set aside 36 percent, at an estimated cost of $3.1 million per year, Vasquez said.
Students apply by filling out a FAFSA form by the deadline before the year they wish to receive financial aid. There is not an additional application and the students who qualify for the Blue and Gold plan will receive the promised aid automatically. They also qualify for additional grants for textbooks, housing and transportation based on need.
For students who don’t qualify for the Blue and Gold plan, Vasquez said that there is still a variety of options available via the university, the state and FAFSA.
“Certainly for middle income families there has been assistance,” he said. “Whenever there’s been a fee increase for families between $60,000 and $100,000, we will cover at least half of the fee increase since they enrolled.“
Middle-income families typically receive about $5,800 per year in financial aid, be it scholarship money, loans or grants.
“Even though someone who is not a low-income student won’t really be affected by this plan, they will still receive aid,” said Lora Jo Bossio, interim assistant vice chancellor for enrollment and academic support services. “When you look at the combination of aid we offer, it’s clear that we have a very robust financial aid program.“
For more information about how to receive financial aid, visit financialaid.ucdavis.edu.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.