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UC Berkeley launches aid program for middle-income families

December 14, 2011 | 10:15 am

Berkeley

Thousands of middle-income students at UC Berkeley will get sweetened financial aid packages next year under a plan announced Wednesday.

The program, for students from families earning $80,000 to $140,000 a year, is believed to be among the first of its kind at a U.S. public university. Officials said it is a response to the rising cost of attending UC Berkeley, which now totals $32,600 for tuition, room, board and books, and to evidence that some middle-income families are being priced out of the university or lured away by scholarship offers from private colleges.

Administrators estimate that 1,000 to 2,000 students from families in the targeted income range received some grant aid this year from UC Berkeley and say the new program will benefit an additional 3,000 to 4,000. The grants are expected to run from about $3,600 to about $16,000 annually.

Under the program, which begins in fall 2012, parents who meet the criteria will be expected to pay no more than 15% of their annual income toward the total cost of a UC Berkeley student's education. In the past, there was no such cap. But the formula also will require students to contribute $8,000 toward their own annual education costs from summer earnings, loans or with the help of their parents.

For example, a family earning $100,000 annually would pay a maximum of $15,000 in the expected contribution from parents plus the $8,000 student portion; then the student could receive about $9,600 in grants toward the $32,600 total bill. A family with income of $140,000 might receive a $3,600 grant.

To be eligible, families must not have more than $200,000 in assets other than home ownership and retirement savings.

"As a public institution, we feel strongly that we need to sustain and expand access across the socioeconomic spectrum," UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in a statement released Wednesday. "This plan is part of our commitment to ensuring that financial challenges do not prevent qualified students from attending one of the preeminent public universities in the nation."

The $10-million to $12-million cost of the program will be funded by philanthropy and by the revenue the campus earns from a recent sharp increase in the number of out-of-state students. This fall, nearly 30% of UC Berkeley's freshman class was made up of non-Californians, up from 23% last year and far above the UC system average of 12%.

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-- Larry Gordon

Photo: UC Berkeley campus Credit: Max Whittaker / Getty Images

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