Middle class students offered financial alternative

The cost of a college education is known to be expensive and is often under the potential threat of tuition hikes and increased fees. 

For some there is financial aid, but to others, they are not eligible due to the annual income of their families.

To help out these middle class families and students, the California Legislature created the new and unusual tax funded, Middle Class Scholarship program in the 2014/2015 academic year that provides aid to undergraduate students with annual family incomes between $80,000 and $150,000 and who would often be ineligible for traditional state and federal financial assistance.  

The state legislature appropriated $107 million this academic year.  It was not clear if this amount would be sufficient due to the high demand, but officials from the California Student Aid Commission report that there was enough money to fund all eligible middle class applicants.

The Middle Class Scholarship is being phased in over the next four years and the maximum amount of the scholarship will increase until 2017-18, when the maximum scholarship award will be up to 40 percent of the mandatory system wide fees and tuition.  The Middle Class Scholarship is not set amounts and varies by each student and institution they attend. 

Roughly 73,000 state university students will be awarded this scholarship and about 1,600 of those are students at Sonoma State.  

The average awarded scholarship amount for a California State University student is $627. 

According to Director of Financial Aid, Susan Gutierrez, each award will range from $90-$768. 

Since the Middle Class Scholarship program is brand new for this academic year, each California State University and University of California will be sent rosters from the California Student Aid Commission 

The rosters will show all potentially eligible students and each school must manually review and award each potentially eligible student.

“It will take some time for us to complete the review,” said Gutierrez.  “I am expecting we will begin disbursing MCS [Middle Class Scholarship] to students around Oct. 13 and the awards will be between $45 and $384.”

Eligible SSU students will receive a Modified Award Offer email and can check their view financial aid link in MySSU at that time to see the awarded amount of the Middle Class Scholarship. 

For students who wish to be considered for the Middle Class Scholarship in the upcoming 2015/2016 academic year; students must be a California resident attending a UC or CSU, be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or have AB 540 student status, meet certain income and other financial aid standards, maintain satisfactory academic progress, not be in default on a student loan and must not be incarcerated.  

Students must also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Application between Jan. 1, 2015 and Mar. 2, 2015.

For more information on the program, its eligibility requirements and other questions, visit the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) at csac.ca.gov or the Financial Office located in Salazar Hall.