New Funds Expand UC Merced Scholarship Offers

MERCED, CA— First-time freshmen can get more money for school this year, thanks to a grant from the University of California Office of the President.

The money allows UC Merced's Financial Aid Office to offer more cash to families that make up to $80,000 annually under the new Pioneer Grant program.

First-time freshmen must file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms by March 2 to be eligible.

"This allows us to help people who wouldn't normally qualify or wouldn't have enough aid otherwise," said Financial Aid Director Diana Ralls.

Though family income is the criteria people are most familiar with, financial aid packages are actually based on several factors, including a family's ability to contribute. For example, a family with three children in college would be less able to contribute than a family with one child in college - even if the first family's income is higher.

Financial aid advisors look at every student's FAFSA application and circumstances to come up with grant, scholarship, loan and work-study packages that best meet each student's needs.

With the Pioneer Grant, students can get a subsidy that, in many cases, will cover at least part of what would have required loans or work-study.

Ralls, who devised the Pioneer Grant, said she focused on first-time freshmen because they have less borrowing power and are less likely to work while in their first year at college.

"It's to help them make that transition," she said. The Pioneer Grant is a one-year gift.

However, it isn't the only free money available for UC Merced students. There are also Bobcat grants and scholarships that help new and continuing students. Those are based on income, FAFSA application and academic merit. Students with a 3.25 grade-point average or better are eligible for the Bobcat Scholarship, while students with lower GPAs will be considered for the Bobcat Grants.

All students have to do is file the FAFSA on time and UC Merced advisers will consider all campus-related financial aid sources, including scholarships set up by UC Merced donors.

"There are no separate applications for the campus scholarships and grants," Ralls said. "Students have enough to worry about when they are going to college."

Of course, students can also apply for outside scholarships, like the ones community groups and organizations give out, which can further reduce the need to borrow or work.

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