How … unique: Honest reporting on UC tuition

I’ve whined for years about how poor a job California media have done in reporting on UC tuition issues. Every increase is depicted as an assault on students from low-income families. That’s bunk, at least if they sign up for an extremely generous program that is well-promoted on UC campuses, if not in the broader state media. Pretty much alone among state reporters in consistently mentioning this program is Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle. Her article today once again points out realities that just about no one else in the California print media ever brings up.

Alarmed that many qualified students from families earning incomes of between $80,000 and $140,000 can’t afford to go to the public university, campus officials announced a unique price break Wednesday. UC Berkeley will become the first public campus in the nation to offer a discount to middle-class students who don’t otherwise qualify for financial aid, they said.

Beginning next fall, thousands of families in that income bracket will pay just 15 percent of their earnings rather than the full, in-state price of $32,634 that one year of school now costs. That amount includes tuition, room, board, books and other fees.

For a family earning $100,000, the price would plunge to $15,000 under the program. Here’s the catch: As with all financial aid programs, the campus will contribute all but $8,000 of the difference. Students will be expected to cough up that amount, perhaps by working at a campus job or obtaining a loan, “so they have some skin in the game,” campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

That would bring the parents’ and student’s combined contribution to $23,000.

Even so, the deal shaves off 11 to 61 percent of a family’s bill – depending on income – when the student’s cost is figured in. Out-of-state families will get the same price break, but only on the in-state amount. They will still have to pay the additional $22,878 fee required of non-Californians.

“We’re trying to do the very best we can so that every qualified student will be able to attend UC Berkeley,” Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said. “This program is necessary.”

The economic crisis has sent the University of California’s price tag soaring, and middle-class students across all UC campuses have suffered more than low-income students in some ways because they don’t qualify for financial aid.

I know I do a lot of whining about the California media, but I don’t think I’m off-base, especially on this issue. Whenever I mention the UC Blue & Gold program to people, they’re shocked. They’re so used to the media narrative of poor college kids being beaten up by regents and lawmakers. It’s garbage.

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