The current rhetoric of the University of California Office of the President greatly undermines the reality of students depending on financial aid, specifically with regards to the middle-income population.
In a press release published Nov. 18, the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) clarified that it would implement “increases in financial aid and tax credits to help low- and middle-income students … [in order to] provide enough additional resources to cover the full amount of the fee increases already approved for 2009-10, and the 2009-10 mid-year increase for nearly three-quarters of UC students with family incomes below $180,000.”
While this statement acknowledges the role financial aid plays in students’ grappling with current fee hikes, it fails to address the disproportionally limited amount of financial aid available to middle-income students. Middle-income being those families making between $70,000 and $138,000 annually.
According to a statistic published by the UCOP Corporate student system, the average middle-income first-year undergrad only receives enough money to fund approximately one quarter of an academic year. Students whose families can be considered on the higher end of this income scale receive even less financial assistance, totaling roughly $3,000 annually.
Although this system is welcomed by students, it leaves many uncertain about how to cover the remaining costs.
Students can turn to loans, but this only puts off the inevitable difficulty of paying them off with increasing interest.
Cal Grants may presently be an option for students, but in the near future they may no longer be a reliable fallback, as they are not a permanent part of the California state budget and could be cut. In addition, only 20 percent of students of lower middle-income first-year undergrads qualify for pell grants.
Federal Tuition Tax Credits total up to $2,500 a year per recipient, according to Collegeboard.com, however that amount declines depending on family income.
UC President Mark Yudof has highly touted the expansion of the Blue and Gold program, where student families making under 70k are exempt from paying fees. Before the extension, families making under 60k were able to have their fees waived. However this extension only covers an additional 800 students in a UC system which has a total of 230,000 students.
Overall, only 20 percent of students in the UC system are covered by this plan. The vagaries of the public financial aid statistics and statements do not reflect the realities of the economic situation, one that is constantly in flux.
After the UC Board of Regents approved the systemwide fee increase, Yudof stated that the move was necessary and would “provide access, maintain quality and stabilize the fiscal health of the university.” However, the reality of the situation is that while these dramatic fee increases do provide more financial aid for some students, there are still many middle-income students who will not see these benefits and instead will have to face the detriments of the ever-increasing price of an education.