Middle-class college students who were once only eligible for loans may now qualify for a new state-funded scholarship.
The Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, and the scholarship will be partially available for upcoming fall semester students.
Any University of California or California State University undergraduate student with combined family incomes up to $150,000 can now apply for the scholarship by completing the 2014-15 FAFSA form or the California Dream Act application.
The MCS seeks to give financial assistance to students who have otherwise been unable to qualify for financial aid in the past, said Sandra Jones, director of Central Valley Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP).
“Increasingly, students from middle-class families have been priced out of college because their parents earn too much money to qualify for low-income programs, but not enough to afford a college education,” Jones said.
The MCS will be phased in over the next four academic years, which means students would not receive the full amount they were awarded until their fourth year, according to the California State Aid Commission.
Students whose families earn up to $100,000 per year may be eligible for a scholarship of up to 40 percent of the mandatory systemwide tuitions and fees, while students whose families earn between $100,001 and $150,000 per year may be eligible for a reduced scholarship of no less than 10 percent of tuitions and fees.
Dr. Antonio Avalos, associate professor and chair of the Fresno State economics department, said that the MCS is a logical step toward supporting higher education.
“It makes sense to spend public money educating people. I mean this is what Fresno State, the CSU, the UC system is all about,” Avalos said. “We are receiving some subsidies from the state because we understand that educating the population can have a really positive impact socially, culturally and economically. An educated workforce is more beneficial than an uneducated workforce.”
Bernard Ogden, director of the financial aid department at Fresno State, said that the program will help students in the long run.
“I’m not sure how significant the money will be this year, but over the next three, four years, it will become more significant,” Ogden said.
Fresno State students graduate with an average of $17,000 in student-loan debt, and that number is increasing, Ogden said.
“It’s one of the things that drives me here,” he said. “I want students to have a good experience on this campus, to be engaged in this campus, to be able to afford this campus, but also I want them to be able to afford it when they leave.”