This information is for current applicants, but prospective students (and their parents) should review it to mentally prepare for the out-of-pocket expenses UCs expect students to cough up. I had a student with a family income of $14,000 per year (well below the federal poverty level) who received $5,000 in subsidized loan, $4,500 in work-study (essentially loans because that amount can be converted), and $500 in unsubsidized loan (starts to accumulate interest from the day you take it out). Several middle-class families I’ve worked with received loans to cover the entire student budget ($0 in free money). The UCs are not cheap (certainly not cheaper compared to many other college options). Prepare now so you don’t get caught unexpectedly (I had one student whose family was unprepared and took out 100% loans for four years; with a six-figure salary working for Bay Area tech startups, the student managed to pay it off before turning 30).
For those of you who have already received your financial aid package, you read it correctly, MINIMUM out-of-pocket cost at a UC starts at around $8,500 per year (at some UCs, that amount is $10,000) regardless of your family income (even if your family income is below the federal poverty level). Many students are not able to work and the work-study amount frequently gets converted to loans (you can also convert eligible loans to work-study). That means you are likely to graduate with close to $40,000 worth of student debt if you are entering as a freshman, or $20,000 worth of student debt if you are entering as a transfer (often significantly higher because many students don’t graduate within the expected time frame; many parents also take out PLUS loans in addition to the loans students are taking out).
Make sure you apply to outside/private scholarships, there are still some out there. You may find scholarship resources for freshman and transfer students on my website. Consider looking for scholarships offered through local sources, such as Rotary Club, Lions Club, Elks Lodge, credit unions, local businesses, employers, and labor unions, which usually have less competition compared to scholarships with an online presence. It’s a lot of work, but it’s better than working while in college or paying back loans for the rest of your life. The government, colleges, and private lenders are NOT taking the time to educate you on how to manage your money or explain how crushing student loan debt could ruin your life. Loans are too easy to take out and the interests add up too quickly (particularly for unsubsidized or private loans). Federal student loans will follow you for life and not to be taken lightly (you will carry the debt until you die because student loans typically cannot be discharged through bankruptcy). Predatory student loan servicers have also been contributing to higher student loan default rates (please note, the link takes you to a video that contains explicit language; unfortunately it’s the only one I could find that provides a clear enough explanation regarding the problems with student loan servicers); although California student loan borrowers will benefit from expanded state protection starting in 2021.
More recently, students have been turning to crowdfunding as a source of tuition assistance. If you have the time and think you can manage a project like this, go for it! Here are some resources to get you started:
- How To Use Crowdfunding To Pay For College (provides tips and ideas for a successful crowdfunding campaign)
- Top 16 Crowdfunding Sites for College and Education Costs (lists the available platforms and the fees each platform charges)
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