On May 11 at the Humanities Star Plaza, the California Public Interest Research Group and Associated Students of UC Irvine co-sponsored ‘Free Money for Students,’ an event held to inform students about ways to increase financial aid and support the Student Aid Reward Act and Return to Aid program.
Jared Wigginton, a third-year political science major, interim organizer with CalPIRG and at-large representative for the Associated Students of UCI, led the event and explained the importance of the STAR Act.
‘Over 170,000 students … are unable to pursue a higher education each year because of financial constraints,’ Wigginton said.
According to Wigginton, the STAR Act would help more students pursue a degree by providing an increase in financial aid funds.
‘The STAR Act will establish an incentives program for schools using the most efficient federal loan program,’ Wigginton said.
Currently, the federal government provides two loan programs: the Direct Loans program and the Federal Family Education Loan program. Direct Loans provides students money for their education, while the FFEL program subsidizes loans to private lenders.
‘The [FFEL] program costs the government nearly $11 for every $100 lent to students,’ Wigginton said. ‘From 1992 to 2004, the cumulative taxpayer subsidy costs was $39 billion for [this] program.’
Schools that choose the more cost-efficient Direct Loans program, according to Wigginton, would receive additional financial aid for students.
If the STAR Act passes, students would have access to an estimated $17.25 billion in financial aid over the next 10 years with no additional cost to taxpayers. This money could provide a $600 increase to Pell Grant recipients.
In California, this means $246 million would be available to increase financial aid.
For UCI, which currently uses the Direct Loans program, an increase of about $3 million would be available for student aid each year.
In order to show support for the STAR Act, Wigginton said, ‘We need to show the rest of this country that … our voices will not be muffled by suctions of apathy.’
Following Wigginton’s speech, Zachary Avallone, a second-year international studies major and an ASUCI and UC Student Association student representative, discussed increasing student aid at a local level through the Return to Aid program. In the past, the UC system set aside 33 percent of student fee revenue for financial aid. As of last year, the UC Regents decreased that percentage to 20 percent. The Regents will be meeting soon to consider increasing this number.
‘The Regents, in November, passed a resolution saying that they are only going to support [student aid] at 25 percent,’ Avallone said. ‘In May … they will have another meeting and they will be discussing if they should raise it to 33 percent, and we demand that they do.’
Carlos Feliciano, a third-year criminology major, ASUCI president-elect and board chair of UCSA, also voiced his support for Return to Aid.
‘We don’t have control over the state budget, but we do have control over our own budget and how much we as a university prioritize financial aid,’ Feliciano said.
Following the speeches, the microphone was opened to any students who wished to voice their frustrations and concerns over increased tuition costs.
Reserve board member of CalPIRG and third-year drama major Lilan Bowden, who passed out flyers advertising the event, found it important to provide students with more awareness about this issue.
‘The more people get involved with this and the more the information spreads, the better we can improve the quality of life for college students,’ Bowden said.
Brendan Wolfson, second-year electrical engineering major, felt that the STAR Act might be deceivingly beneficial for students.
‘It would probably entice students to get loans, but maybe overtime it would cost students more,’ Wolfson said. ‘It seems like it would be a good idea for students, but if you look deeper, it might not be.’