The University of California, sensitive to criticism about student fee hikes, reported Friday that more low-income undergraduates than ever are enrolling at its campuses and said financial aid is helping them to stay.
An estimated 70,000 UC undergraduates are receiving federal Pell grants, which typically are awarded to students with family incomes below $50,000. According to the report, that is the largest number in UC history and represents 39% of its undergraduates, up from 35% last year.
UC President Mark G. Yudof acknowledged Friday that some of the 5,000 additional Pell recipients at the university this year could be attributed to unemployment pushing family incomes down and to rule changes that have raised the income ceilings for Pell eligibility. However, he stressed that federal, state and UC financial aid is protecting lower-income students and that enrollment of middle-income students is stable.
"At the end of the day, we still are doing our job," he said, referring to the growing numbers of financial aid recipients. "We are taking them and that's what we ought to do."
UC Student Assn. President Claudia Magana said Friday that she could not dispute the numbers but has heard of many lower- and middle-income students who are taking time off from school because of money woes, or, for the same reason, decided not to apply or enroll. For in-state residents, UC's basic undergraduate fees, not counting campus-based charges, are $10,302, $2,500 higher than last year. Room, food and other expenses can add $17,000 more.
Among freshmen, those from households earning $49,000 to $99,000 have stayed at 20% since 2008, UC data show. Those with higher family incomes make up 26% of the freshman class, compared with 29% in the previous two years.
UC's nine undergraduate campuses offer a financial aid program called the Blue + Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers all basic education fees for students whose families earn less than $70,000. Yudof said he wants to raise the income ceiling next year, allowing more to qualify.