Arturo Samaniego
National Beat Reporter

When it comes to offering freshmen financial aid, the University of California, Santa Barbara earns top marks from The Student Loan Report. In a list of 250 public schools offering financial aid to freshmen, UCSB earned the fourth highest spot, giving out an estimated $21,100 in financial aid to first year students.

The Student Loan Report looked at 250 public schools across the nation and used the Peterson Financial Aid Dataset to organize the rankings. The data from Peterson Financial Aid dealt with the 2015-2016 academic school year and was self-reported by colleges.

The rankings also showed that the UC as a whole excels when it comes to providing freshman financial aid. UC Riverside and UCLA earned the first and third spot, respectively. UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego also managed to make it into the top ten schools offering freshmen financial aid.  

Michael Miller, UCSB Director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, attributed UCSB’s and other UC campuses’ high rankings to their support of low income students.

“UCSB is constantly near the top of national rankings for our support of low income students,” Miller told The Bottom Line in an email. “The University of California is extremely supportive of low income students in general.”

Miller also explained why freshmen tend to receive more financial aid than other students.

“Generally speaking, freshmen do get more aid because they live in the residence halls which are more expensive than living off campus,” Miller said. “There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, that is how things work on most campuses.”

Despite the good news of UCSB’s and other UC’s commitment to supporting freshmen financially during their first year of college, the rankings still come at a time of financial uncertainty for many students.

Back in September, the United States Congress failed to reauthorize the Federal Perkins Loan Program that was offered to financial aid qualifying students with about $2.7 million students across the United States receiving the loan. Additionally, in January, the cost of attending a UC rose as the UC Board of Regents approved a 2.5 percent tuition increase.

Miller acknowledged the financial troubles many students are currently experiencing.     

“I’m proud of the work we do in this area, but [with] that said, there is much more to be done as the cost of higher education continues to climb,” Miller said.

UCSB has taken steps in the past to provide more financial assistance to students. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the university established the Community Financial Fund. Since then, it has supplemented the A.S. Emergency Loans Program, created a grant program to provide additional financial assistance to students, and conceived financial literacy workshops to help students learn how to manage their money.

Ashlyn Navarro, a third year environmental studies major, expressed some dismay over the current state of financial aid on college campuses. She explained that she received enough financial aid her freshman year of college to not have to worry about paying for classes for subsequent quarters, but said the loans can still be expensive.

“I’ve still have had to take out a lot of loans, and those are loans I’m going to have to continue paying long after I’m out of college,” Navarro said.

Donovan Velasquez, a second year earth science major, feels from talking with other students about financial aid that UCSB’s fourth place ranking accurately reflects its commitment to supporting students.

Still, Velasquez said, “there are definitely students struggling that have to get part time jobs and a lot of student loans. If we can do more to help these students we should.”

Miller emphasized the Department of Financial Aid’s view of higher education as “a multi year commitment and expense.”

“It is just as important to support third year students as it is to support freshmen,” Miller said. “Every student is different in terms of their needs and we do our best to meet those needs regardless of where they are in their journey.”

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