California grants first ever scholarship for middle-class students

The first state scholarship for middle-class students is being offered to nearly 73,000 attendees of California public university systems, according to a California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) spokesperson.

The Middle Class Scholarship, headed by CSAC, is eligible to students from families with incomes of up to $150,000. Students must have completed either the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act application by March 2 to receive funds, which will be disbursed in early October.

“The legislature put a ceiling of $90 and no student could receive any less,” said Patti Colston, spokesperson for CSAC. “The most the scholarship would provide is $1,710 for UC and $768 for CSU.”

Students with family incomes of $100,000 or less are eligible to have up to 40 percent of their tuition covered by the program. Families with incomes that range from $100,001 to $150,000 are eligible to have 10 percent or more of the student’s tuition and fees paid for, according to the CSAC website.

“We don’t get the money, the students do,” said Barbara Hubler, director of student aid at SF State. “We don’t get a pot full of money and decide how much each student gets.”

The commission notified eligible students in an email Sept. 15 that they will receive the scholarship, but the University is required to verify family income before disbursement, according to Hubler.

“We initially pushed for August to disburse funds, but state legislature had to rewrite and make some changes,” said Colston.

Eligibility requirements for the program changed last summer to factor in athletic scholarships and to extend the threshold to part-time students. Due to the change in legislation, the disbursal date was pushed to Fall 2014.

“The program is still new and we still are working out the details,” Hubler said.

SF State student Samantha Chiu’s family income of $120,000 qualified her for $196 through the Middle Class Scholarship, but it doesn’t cover the $6,468 tuition cost at SF State for this academic year.

“I’m happy that I am eligible for the scholarship, but we still have bills to pay,” said Chiu. “I didn’t expect the amount to be so little.”

John A. Perez, former California State Assembly speaker, spearheaded the Middle Class Scholarship Act, which Governor Brown signed into effect July 1, 2013. The legislation is phased in a four-year span, which is expected to increase every school year. The program budget is $107 million and is expected to increase to $305 million by the 2017 to 2018 school year, when it is completely implemented.

“This is a great victory for higher education and middle class families in California, and a huge first step in keeping college affordable,” Pérez said at the signing ceremony in July of 2013. “This legislation will ensure that California maintains a healthy middle class and an educated work force to keep our economy strong.”

To check the amount you are eligible for, go to www.webgrants4students.org and make an account.

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