Calif. Students Applying for Financial Aid Set Record

Nearly 74 percent more students across the state applied for federal financial aid this year

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 74 percent more California students are filing for federal financial aid this year through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

For the 2013–14 school year, around 60 percent of undergraduates at UCSD receive need-based financial aid. Another 45 percent receive Federal Pell Grants for low-income families.

Many four-year colleges are offering more grants and scholarships to students to help offset the costs of rising tuition fees for higher education.

UC Davis established the Aggie Grant Plan that is geared towards helping families with incomes within $80,000 to $120,000. At UC Berkeley, families with earnings of up to $140,000 are now eligible for financial aid. Multiple scholarships are also offered to entering freshmen and continuing undergraduates at UCSD as well, that include the William Stout scholarship and the Alumni Leadership scholarship.

Another initiative known as the Middle Class scholarship was proposed by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) of California and was signed into effect by Gov. Jerry Brown on July 1, 2013.

The program is going to be phased in over the course of the next four years, beginning with the 2014–15 school year.

UCSD Financial Aid Director Ann Klein said she encourages students to take advantage of the Middle Class Scholarship that is devoting $170 million to help students with tuition fees.

“It’s good news for students and families who can now qualify for this new scholarship to help pay a portion of their UC system wide tuition fees,” Klein said. “We anticipate this new program will help about 3,000 UCSD undergraduate students, bringing in approximately $3.5 million in financial support next year, and it will continue to grow while the program is being phased in.”

The Middle Class scholarship was established in the hopes of making higher education more affordable for families with incomes within $80,000 to $150,000.

The amount of aid that each student will receive from this program is determined by the California Student Aid Commission. The award will be based on a sliding scale, covering from 10 to 39 of a student’s tuition fees. It will also consider any other publicly funded grants in the student’s aid package, as well.

Following the approval of Proposition 30, which raised sales and incomes taxes in 2012, tuition fees at the CSU and UC systems have remained at a flat rate for two years. Gov. Brown has asked institutions to continue the trend for a third year.

In addition, the state approved of another financial aid application known as the Dream Act application in 2011 that was implemented last year to help undocumented students gain access to federal financial aid.

Officials are pushing to have students file for federal financial aid this year with the expansion of eligibility being made through the Middle Class scholarship and the Dream Act application.

The California Student Opportunity and Access Program Consortium is one of many organizations across the state that is hosting “Cash for College” workshops to aid families in filling out the FAFSA. Cal-SOAP Consortium Director Monica Roberts urges the importance of filing for federal aid this year.

“More people should apply because more students potentially are going to be eligible this year than in the past,” Roberts said in a Sacramento Bee article on Feb. 20.