UC Proposal Calls for Providing Minimum Gift Aid for Lower-Income Students

To make the University of California's financial aid programs more transparent for families and encourage more low-income students to apply, President Mark G. Yudof will bring to the next meeting of the Board of Regents a proposal that establishes a minimum level of gift assistance for financially needy California undergraduates with incomes below the state household median of $60,000 per year.

The proposal, known as the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, is still subject to ongoing consultations with faculty and student leadership and will be brought to the Regents for potential action at their Feb. 3-5 meeting.

Under the current proposal, undergraduates in their first four years of attendance at UC — or two for California Community College transfer students — would receive enough scholarship and grant assistance to at least fully cover their systemwide UC fees if they have incomes below the median for California households ($60,000) and meet other basic eligibility requirements for need-based financial aid. With the income cut-off set at the median income for California households, the plan will potentially extend to half of all California households.

"Despite having a robust financial aid program and enrolling more low-income students than any other top research university, UC must be able to counter effectively the perception that our costs, especially our fee charges, make us financially inaccessible to students of modest means," Yudof said. "The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan offers a straightforward financial aid message to reassure low-income students and families that UC is financially accessible, especially during these tough economic times. The proposal's goal is to make sure lower-income families no longer need to worry about how they will cover UC's basic student fees."

The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan establishes a minimum level of gift assistance for 48,100 eligible California-resident students. In addition to having their systemwide fees fully covered, eligible students with sufficient financial need will receive additional grant support to help defray other educational expenses such as books, housing, food and transportation costs, among others. In fact, UC currently provides grant and scholarship assistance averaging $10,300 per recipient to 54 percent of its undergraduates. The university also will continue to ensure that grant assistance covers at least half of the annual increase in systemwide fees for other financially needy undergraduates with household incomes between $60,000 and $100,000.

The Blue and Gold proposal represents a new step in UC's efforts to address the concern among many families, especially in periods of economic downturn, that pursuing a higher education might be out of their financial reach. Financial aid reduces the "sticker price" of higher education to a much lower "net price" for many students, and the Blue and Gold proposal seeks to make this fact more clear and understandable to families than ever before.

Last fall, all UC campuses launched interactive Web-based financial aid estimatorsthat allow families and students to obtain information about UC's costs and ways to meet those costs specifically based on their unique financial circumstances, including their annual income, assets and family size.

Implementation of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan would cost UC an estimated $3.1 million per year and would not reduce funding available for UC's existing aid programs. Under the proposal, this cost increase would be funded by increasing the amount of new fee revenue that UC sets aside for financial aid from 33 to 36 percent. The program would be reviewed annually, and its continuation beyond 2009-10 for both new and enrolled students would be subject to the university's determination of financial feasibility.

The proposal complements other initiatives currently in development at UC to broaden access to the university. A separate proposal coming to the Regents in February would revise UC eligibility requirements to give a broader array of high school students the opportunity to have their qualifications considered by UC campuses. And the university is working to expand access through the community college transfer route — starting by expanding transfer capacity by 500 students in 2009-10 even amid a reduction in freshman capacity due to state funding constraints.

The Blue and Gold proposal is scheduled to be placed on the agendaof the UC Board of Regents, which meets Feb. 3-5 in San Francisco.

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