Since UC Berkeley’s initiation of the Middle Class Access Plan last month, UC-wide administration has placed the possible reworking of financial aid at the forefront of conversation.
UC Berkeley’s plan attempts to halt the decrease of middle-income students by capping tuition costs for families who make between $80,000 and $140,000 annually at 15 percent of their household income. Any remaining tuition costs after their 15 percent contribution will be funded by UCB.
Financial accomodation has tried UC leaders since tuition started rising more quickly a decade ago. In that time, tuition tripled and California students began contributing more money to their public education than the state subsidizes.
State and nationwide financial aid only supports students whose families make less than $80,000 annually. UC Office of the President (UCOP) reports show a six to nine percent decline in students with annual family incomes between $99,000 and $148,000, while students with annual incomes on the lower and higher ends of these numbers increased.
Kathryn Maloney, the Director of UC Davis’s Financial Aid Office, said that the drop in middle class students is a reflection of the transitioning ratio between income and tuition.
“Financial aid is supposed to cover students who can’t afford tuition due to low annual family incomes,” Maloney said. “But now tuition is too expensive for many students who have annual incomes too high to qualify for need-based financial aid.”
Maloney said every UC is going to be looking at enacting a plan like this, especially to accommodate rising numbers of students. Applications to the UC system rose 13 percent this year, according to UC officials. Meanwhile, tuition is expected to rise 16 percent annually for the next four years.
“I think it’s awesome that UC Berkeley is putting its money where its mouth is,” Maloney said. “The middle-income group is the one we struggle to accommodate the most; they never get ‘good money,’ only loans. I would love to initiate a plan like this at Davis.”
Though the diminishing middle-income population is a UC-wide problem, UC Berkeley has more middle-income students on its campus than Davis does. Davis has more low-income students; over 43 percent of Davis students receive Pell Grants, whereas only 35 percent of Berkeley students do. Maloney said that UC Berkeley felt greater urgency in providing support to middle-income students.
Desire Campusano, a senior sociology and Chicana/o studies major, as well as Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s student advisor, said that the chancellor has dedicated much effort to raising philanthropic support so that UC Davis has more money of its own to redistribute to students who need it. She said that UC Davis doesn’t have the kind of fundraising that UC Berkeley does, but is trying to increase it. Last year, UC Davis reached record fundraising heights; donors committed to giving more than $117.6 million to the university.
At the moment there is no precise plan to aid middle-income students at UC Davis or direct the increased donations to providing more funding to students. However, according to Campusano, it has become a main topic of conversation.
“Helping middle-income students was one of the first orders of business at our meeting this week,” she said.
According to administrators, there have been many different ideas inspired by plans like UC Berkeley’s to address the growing struggle for middle-income students. These include increasing the blue and gold program from covering families making $80,000 to covering families making $90,000, recruiting more out-of-state applicants and redirecting fundraising.
Many UC Davis students eagerly await some sort of aid. Sarah Krane, a senior economics major, is a middle-income student. She cannot afford to pay tuition.
“My dad has an auto-immune disease and the money he has goes straight to health costs,” Krane said. “My family goes into debt every month, but doesn’t get any aid for tuition because on paper we make more than the maximum amount you can make to receive aid. Financial aid doesn’t take our huge health care costs into consideration.”
Krane is one of many full-time students who work to pay for tuition. She works at two different jobs for a total of 30 hours a week.
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