The price of college will be a tad cheaper this school year for middle-class UCSB families. Because of a new program called Middle Class Scholarships, roughly 156,000 undergraduates can receive up to $1,450 (University of California) and $650 (Cal State), the Los Angeles Times reported. More affluent families could receive a fraction of that.

Specifically, those students attending UC or Cal State (CSU) schools will be eligible for awards if they come from households bringing in $80,000-$100,000 annually — with less money for families who make up to $150,000. By the time the program is fully implemented in 2017, middle-income students in the $80,000-$100,000 range can receive a scholarship that covers up to 40 percent of tuition. That’s about $4,900 for UCSB students, who pay $12,192 annually in basic tuition (excluding room and board).

According to Mike Miller, director of UCSB Financial Aid and Scholarships, the number of students who will receive this extra money is still to be determined because the university system already gives some extra money to students in that income band. He added that 1,800 UCSB students fall in the $100,001-$150,000 income range, and they could qualify for a lesser grant — up to 10 percent covered by the full rollout.

For middle-class CSU students, who pay $5,472 in tuition each year, the scholarship money will be less. Students whose parents earn up to $80,000 a year already can receive most — if not all — of their tuition paid for by state and federal grants.

Talk of student debt has been in the national limelight recently. Last month, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum outlining specific efforts to reduce student loans, such as reducing monthly payments to 10 percent of a person’s income. In 2012, the average debt of UC graduates was $20,000. That figure was a little lower at California State universities and higher at private schools, according to Project on Student Debt. A little more than half of graduates have student debt in California — from public and private schools.

“In the last 10 years, we have had a very good job of providing aid for low-income tuition,” said Assemblymember Das Williams, who coauthored the middle-class scholarship measure. But the Legislature saw a need to help middle-income families in a timely fashion given cuts the state has endured, he said, so the money starts flowing this semester. “It’s not only for their benefit. The more they get, the less they will have to work,” added Williams, “and the sooner they can come out into skilled positions that our economy desperately needs.”


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