UC Berkeley May Lose Its Control of Financial Aid





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SAN FRANCISCO-UC may have to relinquish campus control of financial aid or raise student fees in order to cope with the state budget crunch, a top UC official said yesterday.

In a presentation to the UC Board of Regents, Vice President of the Budget Larry Hershman said legislative analysts are proposing unifying student financial aid under the California Student Aid Commission in order to compensate for the state's budget crunch.

The California Student Aid Commission handles Cal Grants and provides ways for Californians to finance postsecondary education.

Analysts also suggested a general raise in student fees or an increase in tuition for nonresident and professional school students as possible ways to deal with the tightening budget.

Legislative analysts indicated in February that the state's budget shortfall may be $17 billion-$5

billion more than Gov. Gray Davis' January estimate.

There is widespread feeling the analysts have a more accurate grasp of the shortfall than the administration since they have had three more months of data to include in their estimate, Hershman said.

Members of the board said campus financial aid has been successful in catering to individual student needs, and a shift of control to the state may undo the infrastructure that has made campus programs so successful.

"We have had spectacular success at providing for financial needs at the level of individual students," Hershman said. "There's no doubt that taking away university financial aid would be devastating."

UC President Richard Atkinson said the university has some of the best levels of student support in the nation. Proof of this fact is the high number of students from low-income families who attend UC, he said.

A recent study by the James Irvine foundation showed UC campuses enroll more low-income students than any of the other top universities in the country, public or private.

UCLA has the highest enrollment, with 34.8 percent of students coming from a lower-income background, and UC Berkeley is next on the list with 30.1 percent.

Although Davis has not backed off from his position to maintain current fee levels, the increasingly pessimistic picture of the state's budget has caused critics to doubt whether UC can avoid raising student fees.

Regent Odessa Johnson said, "The governor has indicated that there will be no raise in student fees. However, as the budget erodes, we may have to start discussion of such an option."

Atkinson said fee increases would raise the level of student aid UC could provide to lower-income students. "The fact is, we give 50 percent of the revenue from fees back to students in the form of aid," he said.

If there is no rise in student fees for 2002-03, it will mark the eighth consecutive year without a systemwide increase for UC.

The threat of decreased funding from the state is compounded by the tightening federal budget.

The Senate Budget Commission said in February it expected a federal budget deficit through 2004. President Bush's budget request for 2003 provided no increase in student aid.

In 2000-01, UC received $6.31 billion of federal funding, $162 million of which came from student grants and work study.

The state budget has yet to be finalized. It will undergo a May revision and must be approved before the start of the 2002-03 fiscal year.

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