Middle Class Scholarship can cut tuition by 40 percent

Natalie Gray

Beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, the Middle Class Scholarship Act is a new financial aid award for California State University and University of California students with family incomes of up to $150,000.

The scholarship, which also allows DREAM Act students to apply, will cut tuition at UC and CSUs by 40 percent for California families making under $100,000 a year, and 10 percent for families making under $150,000.

“Assemblyman (John) Perez fought for the Middle Class Scholarship to help those families that are otherwise ‘priced out’ of assistance for college,” said Anita Kermes, Sacramento State interim financial aid director. “The bill passed last year and we are in the first year of a three year phase in implementation.”

The new program is administered by the California Student Aid Commission and students are automatically considered once they complete a Federal Application for Federal Student Aid.

The amount of money is determined after any federal Pell Grant, Cal Grant and institutional need-based grants. The final award amount will be based on the number of statewide students eligible for the scholarship and the funding allocated by the state budget.

“I think the change to include high-income families is fine for those that have more children attending college,” said Vanessa Enriquez, senior kinesiology major. “But for a high-income family with only one or two children to receive financial aid, especially when it’s most likely that they can more easily afford the costs, is out of the question. Aid should go to those that actually need it.”

February is Financial Aid Awareness month at Sac State, and the department strives to acquaint students with the various types of aid available, including grants and loans.

The Pell Grant is a grant developed by Congress and unlike a loan, it does not have to be repaid. The maximum amount will be $5,730 for fall 2014.

“This is an $85 increase over (the 2013-2014) award,” Kermes said. “The Pell Grant is based on need, and the amount you receive depends on the Estimated Family Contribution calculated when filing the FAFSA. It will provide additional funding to eligible students everywhere; helping to reduce the cost of going to college.”

The grant will also provide additional funding to eligible students everywhere, helping to reduce the cost of going to college.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is a new option when filing for FAFSA created after the Department of Education and the IRS agreed to allow shared data between the two agencies for applicants’ convenience.

“This is something the financial aid community has asked for years, to streamline the process of verifying reported data,” Kermes said. “It is not only a benefit to the family, but also to the Aid Office as it streamlines our file review process and allows us to award students more expediently.”

Reported income can be verified with the IRS and applicants will not be required to submit a copy of their tax return transcript.

While students are still encouraged to file the FAFSA before the priority deadline of March 2, they can later go back to the application and use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool option.

“You can pull your income directly from the IRS,” Kermes said. “This is easy, and helps to streamline the entire process when that information is sent to the school.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, most families need to offset tuition costs with grants or scholarships and financial aid is one resource available to students that can help with increasing college fees.

“I have received aid since I started attending Sacramento State,” Enriquez said. “The extra aid I get for being in the foster system has kept me from having to find a job while I am still a student, which is a good thing.”