Student protests over the past three years have called for the University of California system to lower, freeze or cap tuition prices. UC Berkeley is the first UC to respond.
In Fall 2012, UC Berkeley will implement the Middle-Class Access Plan (MCAP). This plan will cap tuition costs for families who make between $80,000 and $140,000 annually at 15 percent of their household income.
The MCAP is the first initiative of its kind to have taken place at a public university. Several private universities such as Harvard, Wellesley and Princeton have capped tuition for families making under $200,000 at 10 percent of their income or limited the after-graduation debt of those students to less than $15,000.
Berkeley’s chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, announced the plan at a press conference last month, explaining that it seeks to assist middle class families who make too much to qualify for federal and state aid but make too little to pay for tuition considering California’s high cost of living.
“We see early signs that middle-income families who cannot access existing assistance programs are straining to meet college costs,” he said. “We feel strongly that we need to sustain and expand access across the socioeconomic spectrum.”
Birgeneau stated that the additional funds needed to subsidize the plan will be raised through increased philanthropy and greater admittance of out-of-state students, who pay $22,878 more per year than resident students. The 15 percent cap will apply to out-of-state students, but will not cover the nonresident surcharge they pay.
California may soon be addressing the issue as well. Last week, Assemblymember Jim Beall (D-San Jose) introduced AB 1441, legislation that will give middle-class families a $2,000 tax credit for college-related expenses per student.
Beall accredited the legislation to the 2011 University of California Annual Accountability Report’s findings that “UC tuition and fees have increased 32 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars during the past decade. At the same time, the proportion of students from low- and high-income families has grown, while the proportion of middle-income families has declined.’’
Beall said that despite the fact that lower income families making under $80,000 are not the only ones that need aid, they are the only ones who receive it.
“I think our middle-class families need help too, and that’s why I’m moving AB 1441. I stand with the thousands of California parents and their children who know a college education is their ticket to prosperity but it’s now out of reach,” Beall said.
UC Davis administration officials declined to comment on whether or not a plan like this lies in UC Davis’ horizon.
SARA ISLAS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.