With the governor's signature this week, California college students from middle-income families will soon be in line for a tuition discount.
The state-funded Middle Class Scholarship will buffer tens of thousands of students from UC's and Cal State's frequent and unpredictable fee hikes.
That's something for UC Santa Cruz student Ryan King to look forward to. He has worked many jobs and taken on a pile of debt to pay for his education -- now $15,000 a year, not including room and board.
"There's been nothing for middle-income students to mitigate that tuition increase," King said. "The answer has always been loans -- until now."
When the program begins in 2014 it will bring some relief to California's middle-class families who have watched helplessly in recent years as public tuition and fees have nearly doubled since 2007.
It will offer sliding-scale discounts of up to 40 percent for families who earn $150,000 or less and don't qualify for Cal Grants, which support lower-income students. It was a separate bill signed Monday as part of the state budget.
Students apply just as they would for a federal loan or a Cal Grant, by completing a Free Application for Financial Aid by early March. They must also have a C average. About 130,000 public university undergraduates each year will be eligible, according to the state's estimate.
King, who will be a senior when the scholarship kicks in, estimates it will save
him about $1,300 in systemwide tuition and fees, enabling him to take out one less loan. The son of a sound mixer and a substitute teacher, King works several jobs, including as a resident assistant, to keep the debt for his parents and