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Transcript of Anne De Luca’s response videos for Sproul Plaza, the app

This is the transcript of videos of Anne De Luca, associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, responding to questions concerning student financial aid at Berkeley. The questions were submitted by those who watched her earlier video primer for Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley’s Facebook app.

Video 1: Responding to questions and comments about Berkeley’s middle class access plan (MCAP) and college affordability in general

Before answering the top questions about MCAP, I want to respond to the many comments about the challenges middle class families face when it comes to paying for college. We understand what you are saying; many of us with college-age children who work here at Berkeley are caught in a similar situation. So, I just want to offer a few thoughts and suggestions for families who still face financial obstacles even though they are eligible for our new middle class access plan or have annual incomes above the plan’s $140,000 threshold.

Since 2003 the support Berkeley receives from the state has been slashed in half, from about $500 million in to an estimated $250 million this year. Unfortunately, there was little choice but to close part of that gap with increased tuition. But we realize that can’t be the only solution and we are doing our part here on the Berkeley campus.

We have undertaken a difficult but necessary effort to reduce our operating expenses so we can redirect resources to teaching and research…..and, at the same time, we are building other sources of revenue in order to constrain our reliance on tuition. Here are a few examples: The size of the university’s administrative staff has been dramatically reduced. t. We have also launched an initiative called Operational Excellence that is designed to increase our efficiency. Through this initiative we have already saved about $20 million this year, we intend to reach $75 million in annual savings by 2015. On the revenue side, we are currently in the middle of a $3 billion fundraising campaign that has already raised 2.3 billion. One of the campaign’s key goals is to raise endowment support for students and we’re proud to report that donations to Berkeley are growing faster than any university in the country, public or private.

So, we’re doing the best we can with things we can control, but when all is said and done providing students with all they need for a world-class education remains an expensive proposition in an era of state disinvestment. So, I realize that affordability challenges remain and want to offer some additional thoughts and ideas.

First, as I mentioned in my introductory video Berkeley students graduate with very low debt levels, about $16000 compared to the national average of about $25,000. While many of us are understandably wary about assuming debt, a moderate amount of student loans are quite manageable for Berkeley graduates who, even in these difficult times, continue to fare quite well in the job market. And, remember, a recent study found that those holding bachelor’s degrees earn about $2.3 million over their lifetime, compared with about $1.4 million for those who don’t. In that context, taking on a little debt might just be the best investment you or your children will ever make.

Second, beyond our work-study program there is still a decent part-time employment market in the Bay Area and many of our students have little trouble supplementing their income either on- or off-campus.

Third, many qualified students from California are now beginning their collegiate careers in a community college or state university, and then transfer to one of the UC campuses. This approach can significantly reduce costs while still providing a graduate with a degree that will open doors with a broad range of employers across the country. Last year Berkeley alone admitted more than 5,600 transfer students.

Now, let me answer the three other specific questions about MCAP that received a lot of votes.

First, the plan applies only to four years of undergraduate education … but that shouldn’t be a problem for most of you. Over the past 5 years Berkeley has reduced the average time to an undergraduate degree for a single major to just below 4 years.

Second, if your family has what might be considered  “middle class assets” but an annual income below MCAP $80,000 a year threshold you will, in all likelihood, still be eligible for the system-wide Blue and Gold financial aid.

Third, if you have more than one child in college the federal financial aid formula most definitely takes that into account, and for most families in the MCAP income range with more than one kid in college the resulting parent contribution will actually be lower than 15 percent of annual income.  Families therefore do “get a break” for having multiple children simultaneously attending college.

Finally, don’t be satisfied with the general advice I am offering. File your FAFSA — which is all that is required for most forms of aid at Berkeley including MCAP — and see what you are eligible for. Or contact the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office for more information. Financial need is complex and we often find ways to help people who think they are ineligible for any form of assistance. Just send an email to [email protected]

Video 2: Responding to questions about how financial-aid calculations account for living expenses and off-campus housing

Many of you have asked about how we construct the Cost of Attendance (or student budget) on which we base your financial aid eligibility. We actually compile three standard student budgets that account for the difference in costs between residence halls, off-campus housing, or with a living with a relative.

All three budgets include the same components: Tuition and Fees, Room and Board, Books and Supplies, Transportation and Personal Expenses. And, unless you opt out of undergraduate student health insurance, that amount will be added to your budget as well.

When it comes to room and board costs for students in the Res Halls, the amount is based on a weighted average of all of our dorm room and meal-plan costs. For all the other components of the budgets, including rent and food for those living off-campus, we rely on student survey data — UC regularly conducts a cost-of-attendance survey, asking students about what they spend on books, rent, utilities, food and so forth.

Now some students may find that they are able to save money by scrimping — you may find an apartment for lower than the standard rental allowance, or travel home less frequently than the transportation allowance permits. On the other hand, for some students the standard cost of attendance is insufficient. You may need to purchase a computer, have unexpected medical expenses not covered by insurance, or have a class with a large course materials fee. In this case, you may file a budget appeal for the extra expenses — the appeal form can be found on our website, financialaid.berkeley.edu.

Some of you also wondered about the mechanics of financial aid, especially for students that do not live in University owned housing.  All financial aid is first applied to any charges for tuition, fees, or housing on your bill for the current year, or what we call the “CARS” account. (We are addicted to acronyms around here: CARS stands for Campus Accounts Receivables System.) After those items and any other charges you ask us to handle are accounted for, a refund of any remaining aid will be paid to you.  While it’s your choice how the refunds are paid, we recommend an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) directly into your bank account, or we can issue a check that can be picked up by the student.

Now, I’m betting that this answer probably raised some additional questions, so don’t hesitate to contact our Financial Aid and Scholarships Office for more information. Financial need is complex and we often find ways to help people who think they are ineligible for any form of assistance. Just send an email to [email protected]

Video 3: Responding to questions about financial aid for out-of-state students

Students from other parts of the United States are valuable members of the Cal community. The unique perspectives and backgrounds they bring with them enrich campus life. Just like California residents, a significant number of students from other states receive financial aid. Some of our out-of-state students receive federal Pell grants in addition to UC grants and scholarships, loans and work-study. Students from other states are eligible for the same amounts of financial aid as our California undergraduates … and that includes eligibility for our new middle class access plan (MCAP) — that extends financial aid to families with annual incomes up to $140,000. The one difference is the non-resident tuition supplement of $22,878. UC Berkeley does not provide institutional grants or scholarships for this amount … and the reason for that is pretty straight forward: even though the state has cut its support for higher education, it still provides a significant subsidy for the cost of educating a student from California. By law, however, that subsidy is not available for non-residents.

Because it is extremely rare and quite difficult for students to become California residents after beginning school as out-of-state students, families should ensure they have a plan to cover all four years of non-resident tuition. When you access and review your financial-aid award (on MyFInAid.berkeley.edu) most families will see parent and student loans available to cover the $22,878 difference between in and out of state tuition. Families may also choose to use savings, current income or private borrowing, to pay this amount, and certain students may have outside scholarships which help cover these costs. All can be applied toward the full cost of their education.

And, don’t forget — iff you have questions or need help, just contact our Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. Financial need is complex and we often find ways to help people who think they are ineligible for any form of assistance. Just send an email to [email protected]

Video 4: Responding to questions about financial aid for international students

Funding an education as an international student at any university in the United States can be challenging. By law, international students are not eligible for federal or state financial aid. And under our university policies they are not eligible for institutional aid at UC Berkeley.

We urge international students to research scholarship opportunities from private organizations both within the U.S. and in your home country. As a suggestion to get started, consider your background, your future or current field of study and possible career paths. Use these topics to search for organizations that may have some connection to your interests and background. … And then be sure to apply for available grants and scholarships.

Also, remember that in order to secure your visa to study at Berkeley, you will have to show that you have sufficient resources to finance your education.  That may come from savings or private scholarship funds.

Video 5: Responding to questions about being an “independent” student and our Fall Program for Freshmen (FPF)

There was a popular question about whether a student can, while they are at Berkeley, change their legal status from “Dependent” to “Independent” for financial-aid purposes.  Unfortunately, that is, according to federal law, fairly difficult to do and the vast majority of our undergraduates are considered “Dependent” based on the federal definition. Financial independence for financial-aid purposes is based on a strict set of criteria — and it does not reflect a student’s ability to pay or a parent’s willingness or ability to pay for college. Questions that will help you determine your status and the odds that you can successfully change it can be found on the FAFSA web site: fafsa dot ed dot gov. However, the basic rule of thumb is that if you are a dependent your first year, you will almost surely need to retain that status throughout your time as an undergraduate — or until you turn 24.

Now a few words for those of you who asked about our Fall Program for Freshmen (FPF). For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the program is designed exclusively for freshmen admitted to Cal for the spring semester and allows those students to study at Berkeley through the university’s extension program. If you’re already in, congratulations … FPF is a great way to start your Cal career.

Although this program is coordinated by UC Extension, because you have been admitted to Cal for the Spring term, students who enroll in FPF are eligible for financial aid from UC Berkeley for FPF. In fact the aid available to FPF students is identical to what’s available for regularly enrolled students at Cal, including Cal Grants for those eligible.

The cost of attendance for an FPF student includes the actual FPF fees for fall, and regular UCB fees and tuition for spring. It also includes housing, food, transportation, books and supplies. To apply for aid, fill out your FAFSA and then check your MyFinAid account at MyFinAid.berkeley.edu.

And, don’t forget — if you have questions or need help, just contact our Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. Financial need is complex and we often find ways to help people who think they are ineligible for any form of assistance. Just send an email to [email protected]