California prepares to roll out Middle Class Scholarship

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UC officials estimate that roughly 24,000 UC students are eligible to receive a new state scholarship geared toward middle-class families and will be notified of their award amounts mid-September.

The Middle Class Scholarship aims to provide a stipend for students whose families have an annual income up to $150,000. Although recipients were supposed to be notified of their scholarship award amount before the start of the fall semester, changes in eligibility requirements made by the state legislature pushed the notification date to mid-September.

Students and their families with annual incomes less than $80,000 have tuition covered by financial aid — but those making above that bracket may not receive need-based aid on a systemwide level. According to UC spokesperson Shelly Meron, more than two-thirds of UC undergraduate students receive grants and scholarships, with an average financial aid award of about $16,300.

“UC is committed to supporting our students with robust financial aid offerings,” Meron said in an email.

To qualify for the scholarship, students must prove that in addition to having a 2.0 GPA, they have United States citizenship, are California or permanent residents or are eligible to attend university under the California DREAM Act and are not defaulting on loans. Scholarship amounts will increase incrementally — currently, check amounts can reach up to $1,700 per academic year — until 2017.

The Middle Class Scholarship complements UC Berkeley’s existing Middle Class Access Plan, which ensures that families do not use more than 15 percent of their income on paying college tuition. The scholarship goes into effect after all other need-based aid is paid, according to Patti Colston, a spokesperson for the California Student Aid Commission.

But Matthew La Rocque, a research analyst at the Institute for College Access and Success, asserts that the primary issue that needs to be addressed is making college affordable for low-income students.

“Given the state’s limited resources, we think there are better ways of solving the affordability challenges of the state, and among them is increasing funding to the Cal Grant program,” La Rocque said.

Although it is too late for scholarship recipients to apply the award amount to the fall semester, students can credit the stipend amount to the spring semester. Applicants who intend to apply for the scholarship should submit a California Dream Act or Free Application for Federal Student Aid by March 2. Students who do not qualify for the Middle Class Scholarship may be eligible for other scholarship programs and federal loans.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn is among the students who received an email Monday notifying her she was eligible for the Middle Class Scholarship.

“Students are really reliant on that money, and that money could determine whether or not students make rent for that month,” Quinn said.

 

Contact Jane Nho and Hiep Nguyen at [email protected].