Trying to ease the burden of families squeezed by the recession and skyrocketing tuition costs, UC Berkeley announced plans Wednesday to extend financial aid to thousands of students from households earning $80,000 to $140,000 a year.
With the program, which starts next fall, UC Berkeley becomes a pioneer among public universities in a national effort to make a college education more affordable for a wider swath of middle-income families. Well-funded private colleges previously have led the way.
UC Berkeley officials called the move a response to reports in California and around the country that some middle-income households are being priced out of the University of California and are reluctant to take on high levels of debt. The Berkeley campus also competes for top students with private colleges that are able to offer generous scholarships.
"As a public institution, we feel strongly that we need to sustain and expand access across the socioeconomic spectrum," UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in a statement Wednesday. "This plan is part of our commitment to ensuring that financial challenges do not prevent qualified students from attending one of the preeminent public universities in the nation."