Cutting middle class scholarship could hit Southern California hard

LA Johnson/NPR

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A proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to phase out funding for the Middle Class Scholarship could affect more than 46,000 students statewide.

That’s the number of University of California and California State University students who received the tuition aid in the current academic year.

Fifty six percent of those students attend a Southern California campus.

Data provided by the California Student Aid Commission shows that this year UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UCLA topped the list of UC campuses with the most students receiving the scholarship. CSU Northridge and CSU Long Beach topped the list among the 23 CSU campuses.

“This is not a time to be backpedaling and really withdrawing support for students attending higher ed,” said Lupita Cortez Alcala, the commission's executive director. The group oversees state-funded financial aid.

Sacramento legislators created the Middle Class Scholarship three years ago as a way to help students whose families don’t qualify for financial aid for low income students. The scholarship is awarded to families with less than $156,000 in yearly income and assets. The aid pays for about a third of a student’s tuition.

“There continue to be avenues for student financial aid, whether it’s through federal Pell Grants or institutional aid,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for Brown’s finance department.

But most of those efforts target low income students.

And Alcala said that because the cost of living in Southern California is higher than in other parts of the state, the loss of the scholarships would hurt students here more than others.

If approved, the proposed cut would stop funding any new scholarships. It would continue to fund any existing scholarships until the student earns a degree.

The cut is far from a done deal. The governor will issue a revised budget in May after the state gets a clearer indication of how much state tax revenue it will be receiving and legislators are bound by law to pass a budget by the summer. Before that, supporters of the Middle Class Scholarship are expected to lobby those lawmakers to keep the funding.