Local students should not be afraid to attend the University of California at Merced or another UC campus because of expenses, according to UC President Janet Napolitano, who spoke with students at Golden Valley High School on Thursday to assure them that financial aid is available to help make education affordable.
Though many Golden Valley seniors have the qualifications to attend a UC, school officials said some students avoid applying or accepting admission because they worry about the costs. Napolitano and UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said they hope that trend changes.
“We want to see you across the street or down the road at one of our campuses in the years to come,” Napolitano said in an address to Golden Valley juniors and seniors.
Tuition for undergraduates at UC Merced is $5,610 per semester for the 2015-16 academic year, and does not include nearly $1,000 in added fees for California residents or the costs of textbooks or housing. According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in Merced County between 2009 and 2013 was $42,591, nearly $20,000 less than California’s median overall.
68Number of Golden Valley graduates currently attending UC Merced
Napolitano told the Golden Valley students that if their families’ annual income is $80,000 or less, they wouldn’t have to pay tuition at a UC.
“Over half of our students pay no tuition,” she said.
Leland said about 60 percent of UC Merced students don’t pay tuition. She promised that financial aid counselors from UC Merced would visit the Golden Valley campus to discuss the opportunities for economic assistance.
“Don’t let the sticker price be a barrier for you,” she said. “Don’t be deterred. Work hard. There’s a place for you in University of California.”
Of the current student body of 6,685 students at UC Merced, only 68 are graduates of Golden Valley, Leland said. While that’s double the number who enrolled from the high school’s 2014 class, officials believe it should be higher.
Golden Valley Principal Kevin Swartwood said 12 percent to 15 percent of the school’s seniors are eligible to attend a UC campus, but don’t because of the cost.
Our doors are open for you. You are the kind of students we want to see.
Janet Napolitano, University of California president
Napolitano began her time at Golden Valley in an exclusive Q&A session with 21 students who were in Advanced Placement classes and extracurricular activities.
For weeks, students prepared for the session, said Mikendra McCoy, a government and economic teacher at Golden Valley who guided the students in their preparation. They researched the University of California and Napolitano in order to fine-tune their questions. They ranked their questions to make sure the most important ones were asked in the 30 minutes allotted. They practiced how they would address Napolitano and discussed how to dress.
“The kids didn’t fake it,” McCoy said. “Even though we prepared so we didn’t look foolish, they were authentic questions and authentic concerns. It was a genuine conversation on both sides of the table.”
After the Q&A session, Golden Valley High seniors Kaely Cullen and Anna Neufeld were all smiles and feeling enthusiastic about applying to and possibly attending a University of California campus. Napolitano was prepared to answer their questions in depth and was able to provide more information than they expected, Cullen said.
“She encouraged us on our path,” Neufeld said.
Students whose families make less than $80,000 a year pay no tuition at a UC.
Napolitano said it was “a good dialogue.” Because it’s the application period for UC campuses, she wanted to make sure students had all the information they needed.
“We want to make sure students who qualify don’t just assume they can’t afford it,” she said. “They can.”
Napolitano took her post as the 20th UC president and first woman in the role in 2013 after serving four years as the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security. She also was the governor, attorney general and U.S. attorney in Arizona. As UC president, she leads the state’s top public university system with 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, and a statewide agriculture and natural resources program.
In addition to Leland, Napolitano also was accompanied Thursday by Assemblyman Adam Gray, a graduate of Golden Valley and UC Santa Barbara.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477