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
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
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.