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Affording College Doesn't Have to Cause a Fright

October 23, 2009

Halloween may be just around the corner, but ghosts and goblins aren’t what cause high school seniors nightmares nowadays. Concerns over affording college have both parents and students losing sleep at night.

Rather than let you quake in your boots, the University of California has a message of hope to offer: Not only can you afford a UC, but every campus is committed to helping you do so.

“Concern over expenses is the worst possible reason not to attend a UC. UC Merced has been able to offer competitive gift-aid packages to almost 75 percent of our enrolled students,” said Kevin Browne, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management. “If a student meets UC admission requirements, he or she deserves to be here, and we can help.”

Today (Oct. 23), UC President Mark G. Yudof announced that he would ask the UC Regents in November to expand the reach of an ongoing financial aid plan to ensure that eligible undergraduate students with family incomes of $70,000 or less will pay no systemwide fees.

“Our message today is simple,” Yudof told an assembly of students at Sunnyside High School in east Fresno. “If you can earn the grades, you can get into the University of California. And if your family needs help, you can get financial aid.”

The university’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which was approved by Regents in February, covers all systemwide fees for California residents with financial need whose family incomes are $60,000 or below. If the Regents approve Yudof’s proposal to increase the income cap to $70,000, it will offer financial relief to many prospective students. 

“We’re in the opportunity business, and even in hard fiscal times, we are going to be doing everything we can to preserve one of the greatest attributes of the university — its rare combination of world-class education and research and its high proportion of students from low-income families,” Yudof said.

Students at UC Merced already know Yudof’s words to be true. Of all UC campuses, Merced has the highest percentage of enrolled students receiving financial aid and of students who are among the first in their families to attend college.

This year alone, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships has awarded $28,216,197 in grants and scholarships to 2,230 undergraduate students. These awards represent money that does not need to be repaid, and do not include fee waivers or work-study benefits.

For freshman microbiology major Christa Caneda of Sacramento, financial aid has been what she calls a “godsend.”

“I have a sister attending UC Santa Cruz, and my parents have lost their jobs because of the economy,” she said. “… My mom sat me down to explain that I wouldn’t be able to go to a UC. They just couldn’t afford it.”

That was before Caneda found out she was the recipient of one of UC Merced’s Regents Scholarships, which includes a gift-aid package that covers the entire cost of her education here – and is renewable for up to four years so long as she maintains the level of academic performance that got her here in the first place.

It’s mine to lose,” she said.