Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats are at odds over the fate of a program that provides scholarships to middle-class Californians who attend a University of California or California State University campus.
The Middle Class Scholarship program is in its toddlerhood – the third year of a four-year phase-in period. It offers financial aid grants of up to 40 percent of UC and CSU tuition to more than 50,000 in-state residents.
The governor’s proposed budget calls for phasing the program out, in the face of a modest deficit projected by his Department of Finance. The budget proposal also includes boosting funding for both university programs and maintaining the Cal Grant for low-income students.
Legislative Democrats, who successfully pushed Brown to create the program, aren’t happy. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty is among that group of Democrats who see value in the program.
“If you’re rich, you can afford college,” McCarty says. “If you’re lower-income, we have a lot of programs for those families. It’s people in the middle that are really getting squeezed.”
McCarty says Assembly Democrats will look at ways to reduce college debt and make degrees more affordable in the coming weeks.
The UC increased tuition for the coming academic year. The CSU is expected to do the same in March. Tuition at both systems has been frozen for the last six years.
“Look, college is getting more and more expensive,” McCarty says. “We need tools to increase affordability and help the middle class, not go the other direction.”