By Arianna Puopolo
Campus News Co-Editor

UC Santa Cruz and its students are strapped for cash. While the vice chancellor’s office projects an estimated $4.5 million deficit, an additional 7.4 percent hike in education fees has students turning their pockets inside out.

Almost 4,000 new freshmen, the largest class in Santa Cruz history, means the Financial Aid Office saw the number of applicants increase by an estimated 40 percent this year. However, there is no indication that the $120 million financial aid budget has adjusted to accommodate growth.

“There’s just less money to go around,” financial aid adviser Dan Rola said. “Our funding is not what we would like it to be.”

According to financial aid director Ann Draper, new funds are available every year for students, but the cost of education is rising faster than money comes in.

“The total available dollars no longer cover the total cost for every student,” Draper said. “Annual cost increases — fees, room and board, books, transportation, etc. — are increasing at a faster rate than increases in federal, state and university aid funds.”

In fall 2007, registration, undergraduate campus and educational fees totaled $2,558.60. This quarter, those same fees cost students and their families $2,734.07 out of pocket. After factoring in housing, transportation, food and other costs, students are finding it more difficult to afford their education.

“This means families are paying more or that students need to find scholarships from non-UCSC sources each year,” Draper said.

Rola said that less money means fewer grants and more loans. The overwhelming number of new applicants at the financial aid office causes a backlog. This delay has negative consequences.

Second-year Stevenson student Victor Orozco’s financial aid package was modified three days before UCSC’s first tuition payment was due. The modification stripped him of more than a thousand dollars.

“In my shoes, that’s a lot of money since I can’t rely on my parents,” Orozco said. “I had to pay an extra $1,500 out of my pocket that I wouldn’t have had to pay if the loans had been dispersed on time.”

Orozco applied for another loan to replace the one he lost, but the financial aid office has yet to process the funds into his account. Until his loan goes through, Orozco is living off of his credit cards.

Education fees aside, the state’s financial crisis has yet to affect UCSC, Draper said.

“The state budget freeze did not affect the distribution of aid funds for any UC students,” she said. “All UC campuses agreed to advance Cal Grant funds to our students. UCSC students received their Cal Grant funds along with their other fall quarter financial aid awards.”

However, not all students are financially prepared to support themselves through their college education.

“I don’t make nearly enough to cover an entire quarter of tuition by myself without financial aid,” Orozco said. “If I can’t rely on that, then who the fuck am I supposed to rely on?”