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UC president wants to boost financial aid

January 22, 2009 |  1:20 pm

Yudok University of California President Mark G. Yudof is proposing changing the university’s financial aid program to cover all academic fees for students from families with incomes of less than $60,000 a year.

Most of those students already receive such aid and officials said the reform plan would make only about 1,100 additional students eligible to have all fees covered. But the main purpose, Yudof says, is to simplify UC’s confusing aid policies and encourage more low-income students to attend one of its nine undergraduate campuses.

“The fact is we need to demonstrate to low-income students that they can afford to attend the University of California,” Yudof said in a conference call with reporters. Current procedures, he said, are “too vague, too ambiguous.”

The plan depends on federal and state programs such as the Pell Grants and Cal Grants to continue as the foundations of student aid. Then, for families who earn less than the state median income of $60,000, UC promises to cover remaining costs at least up to the $7,800 or so that the university’s basic fees are expected to amount to next year. Students with more financial need would be eligible for additional grants for housing, food and books.

UC officials said the plan would not cut into aid currently available for families in the income range between $60,000 and $100,000. Half of those middle-income students now receive some help, they said.

At a time when the state Legislature is preparing to cut funding for UC, Yudof’s proposal would not require additional state money. UC typically sets aside one-third of the income generated by student fee hikes for increased financial aid for needy students. Under the new proposal, the anticipated $3.1 million a year it requires would come from increasing that share to 36% from 33%.

UC is considering an increase of 9.4%, about $662, in basic undergraduate fees for next fall.
Yudof said that part of the motivation behind the plan was to counter media coverage about the higher costs of college education nationwide that he said may be frightening families unnecessarily.

The UC regents are expected to review and vote on the new financial aid plan at a meeting in San Francisco next month.

-- Larry Gordon

Photo: L.A. Times file