The role of financial aid in supporting access for undergraduate students at the university of California

Receiving student financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and work-study increases college access for students planning to attend a college or university. Early on, California made a commitment to make sure the University of California (UC) was accessible to students by providing financial assistance to eligible students in the form of free tuition. Over the years, state financial support has decreased, ending the no-tuition policy and increasing the cost of attendance at a UC. According to the UC, tuition and fee increases have been accompanied by substantial increases in financial aid. However, it is unclear if the UC is using financial aid optimally to ensure access to UC by historically underserved students. This study seeks to understand the characteristics of students who receive financial aid at the UC and how financial aid is being allocated. This study finds that all else being constant, White undergraduate students are more likely to receive financial aid, but Latino, Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Asian undergraduate students receive more financial aid than White undergraduate students at the UC. However, even as Latino and Black undergraduate students receive more financial assistance and their enrollment at UC has increased, enrollment rates continue to be lower than their White counterparts and they are less likely to receive aid at all. This thesis uses 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:08) data collected by US Department of Education. This study surveyed 2007-2008 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in federal financial aid eligible postsecondary institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico. I used a logistic regression and an ordinary least squares regression to estimate the differences in the amounts received by different groups of undergraduate students attending the University of California (UC). After controlling for different variables, I found out that overall, Latino and Black undergraduate students tend to receive more financial aid than their White counterparts. However, when looking at longitudinal data on enrollment, these same students groups continue to be underrepresented at UC, in particular Black undergraduate Students. Even though Latino and Black students receive more financial aid overall at a UC, enrollment numbers still do not reflect the makeup of California’s high school graduating demographics. Given the history of underrepresentation at UC, it is important for policy makers to figure out ways to increase access to these students. I recommend that the state consider providing more free financial aid to cover the full cost of an education, which includes tuition, fees, books, transportation, housing and living expenses. I also recommend that the Legislature require the UC share disaggregated student financial aid data with academic researchers for the purposes of reporting and statistical analysis. This should provide some insights on how to expand financial aid to cover the full cost of attendance and expand access for those students with the most need, and ensure that access is provided in an equitable manner.