The University of California has vowed to offer its California students a college-free experience by 2030 as part of a revamp of how the system views college eligibility.
To get there, the system of 230,000 undergraduate students relies on a combination of state and federal support, income from recent tuition increases and part-time students to cover the full cost of education. Richer household students will also rely on parental support.
The system’s governing body, the Board of Trustees, took another step toward a debt-free target on Thursday when it indicated prioritizing part-time work over taking out loans as part of UC’s official financial aid policy. The change is subtle, but is another example of UC signaling that its students should be able to get a bachelor’s degree without having to borrow over the next few years.
“The preferred outcome of our financial aid strategy is that students can afford their education through part-time job opportunities available to them and minimize student loans,” Michael Brown, provost of the entire UC system, said at a UC Regents meeting on Wednesday. .
indeed More than half of UC undergraduate students in the country Do not pay tuition due to financial aid, the Free Colleges Movement has expanded its scope of activities to include non-academic expenses that are still essential to the student’s education, such as housing, transportation and food.
All of these expenses add up. Just over half of the resident students graduate from the university with student loans, Accumulation of debt of $ 18,800 on average. This figure is well below the national average but is still a financial millstone around the necks of borrowers. CalMatters analysis noted that low-income students who receive federal aid also take out loans, In amounts ranging from 11,000 to $ 16,000 typically.
Earlier this year, the university announced it would provide additional assistance to 6,000 low-income students this fall so students can avoid loans.
The 2030 debt-free target depends largely on compliance with California lawmakers and the federal government.
Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsum are expected to pledge $ 632 million this year as part of a down payment on A debt-free grant that experts believe will eventually cost $ 2.6 billion. After full funding, the grant should provide students with enough money to cover the full cost of attendance after examining parental support, part-time work and grant assistance.
Low-income students whose families cannot afford to help in college will have to contribute about $ 8,000 a year to their education, which they can raise by working 15 hours a week during the school year. Where they find these jobs is an open question, but legislators and the governor last year Has launched a $ 500 million fund to create part-time job opportunities For low-income students studying in the country’s colleges and public universities.
Even higher-income household students will be able to avoid taking out loans, but this assumes their families will provide money for their education based on a federal formula. Higher-income students will also be expected to work.
There is no timeline for full funding of the debt-free grant. However, the Senate wants to commit more money in advance Fund the program in full by 2025-26 As part of the budget deal to be held on June 15th.
The new debt-free grant, which lawmakers call the Middle Class Scholarship 2.0, is the key to UC’s debt-free goals.
This debt-free target for 2030 “is based on the middle-class scholarship reform passed by the legislature last year and its full funding,” said Siya Wirtanen, managing director of state budget relations at UC, during a subcommittee on education budgeting. This week’s hearing.
For its part, the UC will free up 45% of its revenue From the recent increases in tuition fees For financial assistance to students – an increase of 33%. The policy came to life last year. It’s inside too UC’s compact with the governor, A de facto deal in which Newsom promises an annual 5% increase in education funding to UC in exchange for key promises on the plausibility and student success. These funding increases still need legislative approval.
In an analysis conducted by UC officials last August and partnered with CalMatters this week, the system plans Raising an additional $ 333 million By 2029-30 for the undergraduate grant assistance program through tuition increases. The current level of aid is $ 785 million, UC spokesman Ryan King wrote in an email.
Already UC grant assistance is The second largest source of financial support for undergraduate students In the system. The federal government donated $ 420 million to student grants last year. California programs, led by a Cal grant that covers tuition, flowed nearly $ 1 billion last year in student aid.
This state share will increase as soon as the middle class scholarship is officially funded. But there is another wild card that may direct more aid in student grants.
Last year the governor of Newsum Vetoed a bill to add more than 100,000 students, Including several thousand students at UC, for the Cal Grant program, though it has expanded eligibility for grants in other ways. An almost identical bill is now being passed in the House of Representatives, but some lawmakers who support the bill were confused by the Newsom May bill. Did not guarantee financing for the accountWhich is expected to cost more than $ 300 million a year.
One of the leading legislators helping to shape spending policy on higher education called this failure a “significant irony.” Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, a Sacramento Democrat who chairs the Education Budget subcommittee, said at a hearing this week that although the governor’s office made a debt-free agreement with UC, the governor’s budget does not “fund this thing you have to attend a debt-free college.”
About 109,000 of the 150,000 students who will benefit from the Cal Grant expansion are students at a community college. (About 500,000 students at all institutions already receive the Cal grant.) Unlike UC and Cal State students, those attending community colleges are not eligible for the planned middle-class scholarship extension, although they will receive it if they move to the California University.
That’s why Alloy Ortiz Oakley, who is both heir apparent at the University of California and Chancellor of California Colleges, is calling for the passage of the Cal Grant expansion bill to be a top priority for the community college system. The bill would give those students at least $ 1,648 a year while they are in community college and give them free tuition if they move to UC or Cal State.
“The students who have been last in line for so long, should get to the front of the line here very soon,” Oakley said in an interview.
But more money for financial aid is only half the call, he added. The UC also needs to understand how to lower its costs. This may offer more online courses and avoid refilling certain vacancies, among other things.
“Are we recruiting workers in places that continue to grow the bureaucracy of our colleges and universities? Or are we growing in places that directly serve the needs of students?” He asked.
Michael Zinstein is a reporter at CalMatters.
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