The University of California, Berkeley is copying a trend in financial aid popular at many of America’s private colleges and will cap the tuition rate for students from middle income families.

According to an article by Gloria Goodale in the Christian Science Monitor:

As of fall 2012, the flagship campus in the UC system will cap the amount that families with annual incomes between $80,000 and $140,000 must pay at 15 percent of household income.

The MCAP (for Middle-Class Access Plan) is the first such initiative at a public university. Several top-tier private schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Wellesley College have either capped tuition at 10 percent of income for families earning under $200,000 or limited the amount of student debt at graduation to less than $15,000.

Berkeley’s chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, said the school instituted the plan because “we see early signs that middle-income families who cannot access existing assistance programs are straining to meet college costs.”

Berkeley will finance this tuition policy though additional fund raising and the high cost that out-of-state students pay to attend the school.

I guess the tuition cap is rather nice for the families it applies to but it seems to me something has gone a little wrong with public higher education when this step is necessary. Berkeley is a public college. Its tuition rate should be affordable to everyone, rich or poor. Why is the special discount necessary?

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer