The University of California, Berkeley, announced Wednesday that it would offer far more financial aid to middle-class students starting next fall, with families earning up to $140,000 a year expected to contribute no more than 15 percent of their annual income, in what experts described as the most significant such move by a public institution.
While Berkeley has been enrolling low-income and wealthy students at increasing rates, the relative number of middle-class students has declined.
Copying the Ivies
While several elite private universities — including the Ivy League triumvirate of Harvard, Princeton and Yale — offer similar programs for families with incomes up to $200,000, experts said that Berkeley was the first public university to do so. For the most part, public colleges have focused on merit scholarships to lure top students and aid for the poorest families to ensure access, but many now worry that approach has left out a wide group of families.
Berkeley’s definition of middle-class in creating its new financial aid program is a family with income between $80,000 and $140,000 a year. On top of the parental contribution of 15 percent of income, students would also have to pay about $8,000 per year — generally a combination of loans, work-study and private scholarships. At the bottom end of the spectrum, that would make for a total payment of $20,000, a 37.5 percent discount off the $32,000 total of tuition, room and board for California residents. On the upper end, it would be about $29,000, or a 10 percent discount.
(Out-of-state students, who make up 30 percent of Berkeley’s freshman class this year, will get comparable discounts on the first $32,000 of tuition and fees, but still have to pay an additional $23,000.)
Berkeley’s admission rate is 22%, making it clear this financial aid will be limited to top students.
UPDATE: A commenter on collegeconfidential pointed out that under this new program a family earning $120,000 would pay $26,000 a year for their child to attend Berkeley, a discount of about 19% from the $32,000 COA. After looking carefully at these numbers, and taking into account that the median household income in California is about $59,000, I have changed my post title from “Berkeley will offer generous financial aid to middle class families” to “Berkeley will offer financial aid to ‘middle-class’ families“.