Six University of California campuses enroll more low-income
students than any other top university in the country, public or
private, according to a new national study.
The study by Tom Mortenson of Postsecondary Education
Opportunity, a national newsletter on access to higher education,
looked at the top 50 national universities as ranked by U.S. News
& World Report and ranked them according to the number of Pell
Grant recipients they enrolled. Recipients of Pell Grants come from
low-income families whose earnings are usually below $35,000 a year.
The six UC campuses that made the U.S. News & World Report
list fill all the top slots in Mortenson’s study. UCLA enrolled the
highest percentage of low-income students in the nation, with 35.1
percent of its students qualifying for Pell Grants. UC Berkeley
follows, with 32.4 percent; UC Irvine is third with 31.5 percent;
UC Davis, fourth with 28.5 percent; UC San Diego, fifth with 28.3
percent; and UC Santa Barbara, sixth with 24.8 percent.
UC’s own analyses reveal that its other two undergraduate
campuses also enroll high percentages of low-income students: UC
Riverside (40.9 percent) and UC Santa Cruz (26.7 percent).
Mortenson’s study supports the findings of a James Irvine
Foundation report and subsequent UC analysis that showed UC has
achieved its goal of remaining financially accessible to all the
students it admits.
The University of California’s success in this area has stemmed
from the following:
- A strong state grant program: The state of California’s
commitment to low-income students through its Cal Grant Program,
which until recent proposed budget cuts, guaranteed fee coverage
for students attending UC.
- A strong institutional grant program: Until recent budget
proposals, UC returned one-third of its new fee revenue to its
financial aid programs.
- The California Master Plan for Higher Education: California
students know that they will have a place in the state’s higher
education system, regardless of family income, if they prepare academically.
- Academic preparation programs: Award-winning academic
preparation programs such as the Mathematics, Engineering, Science
Achievement program Early Academic Outreach Program and Puente
Project help build a college-going culture among low- and
- A focus on California resident students: Unlike many
comparable public institutions, the University of California’s
mission and its state funding allow it to focus on serving the
students of California rather than residents of other states who
can afford out-of-state tuition.
However, this success story is in jeopardy. Both the state’s Cal
Grant program and UC’s institutional grant program are being cut at
the same time that fees and other educational costs are rising. The
key to maintaining California’s commitment to all its students
rests on its investment in financial aid.
UC continues to press its case in Sacramento, and will do
everything within its means to preserve a strong financial aid
program for its students.
The Mortenson study findings can be found at:
Copies of the complete Mortenson study can be provided to
reporters who call UC media coordinator Hanan Eisenman at (510) 587-6194.
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