UC Berkeley announces new financial aid plan for middle-income families

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, along with other members of the UC Berkeley administration, held a press conference to announce a new financial aid plan targetted at middle class families.
Kevin Foote/Senior Staff
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, along with other members of the UC Berkeley administration, held a press conference to announce a new financial aid plan targetted at middle class families.

UC Berkeley officials announced a new financial aid plan Wednesday for middle-income families that caps parent contribution toward undergraduate student education at no more than 15 percent of family income.

Starting next academic year, students whose families’ gross income ranges from $80,000 to $140,000 annually and have assets of less than $200,000 — excluding the value of a home and retirement savings — will qualify for the initiative called Berkeley Middle Class Access Plan. This plan makes UC Berkeley the first public university in the nation to have comprehensive financial aid to this category of middle-class families, campus officials said at a press conference in Haas Pavilion.

This announcement comes a day after Gov. Jerry Brown slashed the University of California’s budget by $100 million, bringing the total budget reductions for the system to $750 million for the current fiscal year.

By guaranteeing aid to students who fall within the middle-income range, the plan will substantially increase the number of students in this income band who will receive financial aid, according to campus Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary. Yeary said that while the percentage of students whose family incomes fall above or below the $80,000 to $140,000 range has increased recently, the percentage of students from middle-income families has decreased.

About 6,000 undergraduates come from families with income in this range, according to Anne De Luca, acting associate vice chancellor of admissions and enrollment.

The new plan only affects the parent contribution, leaving the student self-help cost unchanged, De Luca said.  The student self-help cost is constant for all students regardless of family income level and averaged at $8,900 over the last four years but cost $8,000 this year, said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

The plan will cost $10 million to $12 million over the 2012-2013 academic year. The campus will cover the cost through increased philanthropy, by redirecting financial aid resources and through revenue from the increased number of students paying non-resident tuition.

Although this plan is meant to help in-state students, De Luca said non-resident students whose family incomes fall within the middle-income range will receive aid to cover the in-state tuition portion. Non-resident students will still have to pay the tuition supplement.

The plan serves as a campus extension of the university’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which guarantees to cover the cost of tuition to any in-state student whose family income is under $80,000, according to Birgeneau.

In order for students to qualify for the new plan, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by March 1 to receive priority consideration.