The UC Board of Regents met Tuesday to discuss methods of making financial aid letters more accessible for students.
During the Investments Committee meeting’s public comment session, multiple speakers emphasized the importance of budget allocation for diversity and inclusion purposes and expressed their opposition to the roughly $140 million spent on UCPD. Speakers advocated for diverting the funding to students and campus employees.
Later, the Special Committee on Basic Needs turned to focus on student financial aid, with UC Student Financial Support Director Shawn Brick describing plans for the future of financial aid letters.
Brick mentioned that his office wants to ensure the financial aid information students receive once they are accepted aligns among UC campuses, in order for students to compare offers. He added that his office is working on a mobile method for incoming and continuing students to access their financial aid forms and review their offers.
With the announcement that UC campuses will no longer consider the SAT and ACT in the admissions process, Brick said the UC Academic Senate will be restructuring merit scholarships that previously depended on these scores.
Multiple regents broached the topic of making financial aid more accessible and comprehensible for first-generation UC students, as well as creating a unified process for students to compare financial aid packages.
Alumni Regent Debby Stegura discussed how the financial aid emails and information the UC system sends have jargon that might not be easily understood. The regents also discussed the lack of translations available.
“Even a simple barrier of language is a huge problem,” said Student Regent-designate and UC Berkeley student Alexis Zaragoza at the meeting.
Zaragoza shared her personal experiences and proposed improvements for financial aid award letters to holistically cover the cost of attendance. She suggested including the cost of living off campus and how the cost of rent differs among UC campuses.
In addition, Zaragoza mentioned the confusion that can occur when lumping financial aid offers with loan offers and how little explanation is given to differentiate between the two.
“UC Merced’s financial aid offer letter is cited in the New America report as a model of how to explain work-study,” the meeting’s agenda states.
Zaragoza said she thinks it is necessary to expand UC Merced’s model to other campuses.
Alumni Regent-designate Cheryl Lott said without extensive explanations included, many incoming students do not have an accurate picture of how to finance their education or future living costs.
“I don’t know if all of our students know that, coming in as 18-year-old freshmen,” Lott said at the meeting.
According to the agenda, the next steps include meeting with financial aid directors from all campuses and reviewing the recommendations made.