Middle class scholarship provides aid to students

Middle class students often have limited financial options when it comes to paying for university tuition, but a new financial aid opportunity is now awarding students money to pay for their education.

Although the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) was open for application for the 2014-2015 academic school year, not many students were aware of the financial aid opportunity and much of last year’s aid went unused.

“Last year we wanted at least 150,000 students to apply and only 81,000 were awarded, almost half percentage that could have applied and didn’t get it,” said Bernardo Reynoso, the Central Valley California Student Opportunity and Access Program director. “And if the state of California sees that middle income students are not applying to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid toward getting this money, who knows in 2016 if it will still be in existence.”

Designed to relieve middle income students of some of the financial burden of college costs,  Reynoso said middle income families and students still need help. Through the MCS, students can receive this aid.

“It was made for middle income families who are sending their kids to a CSU or a UC and couldn’t afford the tuition,” Reynoso said. “The money can give them a sense of relief when they might be stressing about paying a bill or purchasing books, by getting this money that gives them less amount of stress toward getting those little things accomplished.”

To be eligible for the MCS, the student has to be an undergraduate attending a California State University system or a University of California and have a family income of $50,000 up to $150,000.

“The qualifying factors for the scholarship are: a 2.0 GPA or higher, the student cannot have been incarcerated and the student cannot be in defaults of any loans,” said Alma Ochoa, the MCS coordinator. “They also have to meet the March 2 application deadline.”

To apply, students just have to complete FAFSA or the Dream Act.

“Even though it says scholarship, there’s really nothing extra you need to do besides fill out the FAFSA or the Dream Act,” Ochoa said. “It automatically puts them in that bowl depending on how much income the family makes.”

Once the students are awarded, the money goes directly to their financial aid and it pays for their tuition, Ochoa said.

“When you fill out the FAFSA or the Dream Act, they give you different types of aid,” Ochoa said.  “For example, in Fresno State you would qualify for Cal Grants A, B, C. Then there is the School University Grant, and those types of grants you don’t have to pay back.”

If students need to take out loans, they also have the option through financial aid.

“We always tell the students ‘fill out the FAFSA or the Dream Act because you do get loans and those are already given to you, you just have to accept them’ and the APR on those are so low,” Ochoa said.

School loans, through financial aid, usually have an interest of 3-5 percent, but private bank loans have a 15 percent interest, Ochoa said. In addition, with most school loans, students don’t have to pay them back until after they graduate.

One of the main reasons many students did not apply for the MCS was they thought their family income would not be eligible for the aid, but there are different variables that Financial Aid Institute looks at.

In the 2014-2015 school year, $107 million was allotted toward the MCS recipients, and students were awarded 14 percent of their tuition costs. For the 2015-2016 school year, $152 million was allotted toward the recipients and the MCS will cover 20 percent of tuition costs, if the students are fully awarded, Ochoa said.

By the 2018 school year, the MCS will be fully implemented and will cover the full 40 percent of the student’s tuition, if the students receive the maximum award.

“Fill out the FAFSA; it doesn’t hurt to try,” Reynoso said. “A lot of students feel because they are middle income or they’re even high income they might not qualify. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes to do, so why not give it a shot?”

By the 2018 school year, the MCS will be fully implemented and will cover the full 40 percent of the student’s tuition, if the students receive the maximum award.

“Fill out the FAFSA; it doesn’t hurt to try,” Reynoso said. “A lot of students feel because they are middle income or they’re even high income they might not qualify. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes to do, so why not give it a shot?”

 

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