Derek Quizon is a GOVERNING contributor.
UC Berkeley plans to extend financial aid to thousands of students whose families earn between $80,000 and $140,000 a year, reports The Los Angeles Times, making it one of the first public universities to reach out to middle class families with more aid.
University officials announced the plan Wednesday, saying it should help an additional 4,000 students and their families.
Private universities have been reaching out to middle class families for years, but public institutions have been slow in adopting the practice. UC Berkeley has many programs for families making less than $70,000 a year, but experts say the current system -- at Berkeley as well as at many public universities -- leaves many families to fall through the cracks.
"The fact is in American higher education, middle-income families are one of the most vulnerable populations in terms of affordability," said Daniel J. Hurley, an analyst at the American Association of State Colleges, to the Times. Hurley called the plan "a smart move," and said it "may be the beginning of a trend."
The deal saves families between 11 and 61 percent on in-state yearly tuition, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Out-of-state families will get the same price break, but only on the in-state amount -- they still have to pay the $22,878 fee charged to non-California residents.
Under the new program, the university covers all but $8,000 per academic year, which would save families making $100,000 or more about $15,000 anually.
"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 to the Chronicle.