Middle Class Scholarship

The Middle Class Scholarship provides undergraduate students with a scholarship to attend the University of California or California State University. Families with incomes up to $217,000 and a maximum household asset amount of $217,000 are eligible for the Middle Class Scholarship. In order to receive the Middle Class Scholarship, students need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application by March 2nd each year. 

The award is determined after you are awarded any Federal Aid, State Aid and Institutional Aid. If you are selected to receive a Middle Class Scholarship, you will be notified by the California Student Aid Commission. The final award amount will also be based on the number of students that are eligible for the Middle Class Scholarship and the amount of funding allocated by the State Budget.

When determining eligibility, the California Student Aid Commission takes into account the Student’s enrollment, total cost of attendance, and all available resources already awarded to the student. The student’s “available resources” consist of three collective factors: other available gift aid that the student is eligible for (i.e. federal, state, institutional or scholarship aid), a self-help student contribution of $7,898 (applied to all students),and a parent contribution for dependent students with a household income of over $100,000. The student's “available resources”  will be deducted from the student’s total cost of attendance to determine the MCS award. Under this formula, award amounts will vary widely among students. If the student’s combined grant funding from federal, state, institutional, and private sources is already greater than or equal to the amount of their Middle Class Scholarship eligibility, the student will be ineligible for the scholarship.  

MCS award amounts may be reduced at any time during the academic year if it’s determined that the funds appropriated are insufficient to cover the cost of the projected MCS awards.

Please note that if you receive Cal Grant, you may not be eligible for MCS funds.

Middle Class Scholarship FAQs

The Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) program is based on cost of attendance and all resources awarded to a student (Cal Grants, Pell Grants, UCSB Scholarship, Private Scholarships, Departmental Awards, Fee Waivers, etc.). Any new awards received may result in reductions or loss of eligibility for an MCS award. Unfortunately, we do not have any discretion in these reductions, and must abide by the program requirements defined by CSAC.

I had MCS last year, but not this year. Why not?

There are many reasons why you may not have received an award this year. The program is limited to 4 years of eligibility. It is limited to students that meet MCS Income and Asset Ceilings, and is calculated based on your cost of attendance and all other resources you are receiving. Based on these changes to eligibility criteria, not all students that received an MCS in a prior year would continue to be eligible.

I was awarded a Middle Class Scholarship, and later it was reduced. Why did this happen?

The new MCS program requires that we report all changes to a student’s enrollment, cost of attendance, and other awards a student is receiving. The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) then recalculates the MCS award amount. Any changes to these eligibility factors may result in reductions or loss of eligibility for an MCS award. We will be continuously revising student awards this year based on these changes.

I was awarded a Middle Class Scholarship, but my loans/grants were reduced. Why did this happen?

Your total awards (grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study) are limited to your cost of attendance. Whenever you receive a new award, we need to reduce other aid such that your total aid does not exceed your cost of attendance, and such that your total need-based aid does not exceed your financial need. Typically, reductions are limited to loans or work-study, but occasionally we must reduce other grants or scholarships. Our awarding methodology does its best to ensure that a student always receives the best aid for which they are eligible, but that doesn’t always align with a student’s preferences. For example, an Unsubsidized Direct Loan has a lower interest rate than a Parent PLUS Loan, but occasionally a student’s parents may opt to borrow a Parent PLUS while the student does not opt to borrow an Unsubsidized Direct Loan. If you find yourself in this situation, we can help! You have many self-service options including completing a Work-Study conversion or requesting available Direct Loans through My Aid Status. Alternatively, you can contact our office if you prefer to have a Parent PLUS Loan reinstated in lieu of these other options.

I have a Middle Class Scholarship award on WebGrants, but you haven’t given it to me. When will I get my MCS?

We’re working on it! New awardees are being identified all the time, but unfortunately, the new program requirements necessitate a significant amount of manual work. We are doing our very best to make awards and revisions in as timely a manner as possible, but we please ask for your patience while we work through it. The reality is that the MCS program was changed so massively and so quickly that both schools and the California Student Aid Commission are adapting on the fly to new regulations, reporting requirements, eligibility criteria, and technology.

I will be receiving a scholarship in the future, can you tell me what will happen to my MCS?

The answer depends on the source of the scholarship, your cost of attendance, your other resources, and your family’s unique financial circumstances. We cannot accurately predict what might happen to your MCS award due to all of these factors. For example, scholarships awarded by UCSB will almost always reduce your MCS, but scholarships awarded by an external agency may not impact your MCS at all. What we can tell you is that receiving a scholarship is always in your best interests! An MCS reduction should never exceed the amount of additional aid you are receiving.

Can I decline my Middle Class Scholarship?

No, you may not. There is no mechanism available to opt-out of the program, and this is never in your best interests! MCS is free money that does not have to be repaid. We’ve heard from a number of concerned students reporting loan billbacks exceeding their MCS Award amount. The mechanisms that cause this are understood by our office, and we can help you resolve this! Please read the question above “You awarded me a Middle Class Scholarship, but my loans/grants were reduced. Why did this happen?


For more information, you may visit the Middle Class Scholarship section of the California Student Aid Commission website.