Fee waivers often leave out middle class families

Jasmine Santos, Editor-in-Chief & News Editor

I don’t think it’s fair when I see a student pay $25 for five AP tests, and then another student, who couldn’t afford multiple tests either, pays close to $500.”

— Counseling Secretary Chris Morotti

College applications, SATs, ACTs, and AP tests are all requirements, more or less, to get into a good college. All of them have one thing in common: payment. With all the expenses high school students face, especially seniors, it’s a wonder how students are able to afford even getting accepted into college, much less paying for college.


For free or reduced lunch at Bear Creek, qualifying households must have yearly incomes lower than $21,257 for a household size of one (for each additional household member, add $7,437). Students who receive free or reduced lunch are also eligible for fee waivers for the AP test, the SATs, the ACTs, as well as some college applications.


This fee waiver system is beneficial for students who qualify, but middle class income students who make “just enough” money above the cut off get the short end of the stick.


Some students say that the system the school uses to determine whether a student is eligible for free or reduced lunch needs to scrutinize applications more thoroughly.


“Some people who can actually afford it (paying for fees) get free or reduced lunch,” senior Carina Hagele said. “They don’t have the right to lie about their family’s income and do that.”


Sharing the same sentiment, senior Cameron Alcoriza says that the school does not properly check if the applicants are being truthful and that it is unfair for students who do not lie about their family’s income.


“Everyone pretty much has to take and pay for those tests to get into college, not to mention the college applications average about $60 each, so there’s really no way out for middle class income students who want to go to college,” Alcoriza said. “Either you pay in full, or you lie to pay less.”


Counseling secretary Chris Morotti is in charge of AP testing at Bear Creek. She handles the payments and the registration for the students’ tests.


“I don’t think it’s fair when I see a student pay $25 for five AP tests, and then another student, who couldn’t afford multiple tests either, pays close to $500,” Morotti said. “There is a reduced fee for middle class income students at the federal level, but since the school uses the state’s guidelines, I’ve never seen a student get the middle reduced fee.”


EL Resource teacher Nancy Figueroa feels strongly about having aid for students with different levels of income. Her daughter, a senior at Lodi High, went through the same difficulties that other middle class students had with paying for all the expenses of senior year.


Figueroa understands that low income students should have the first priority in receiving financial aid from the government, but members of other income levels struggle with finances as well and need just as much help.

“It’s just really not fair,” Figueroa said, “my family may be making more than low income families but that doesn’t mean that we can afford it.”


Recently, there have been measures to give aid to middle class income students. The 2013-2014 California Budget Act passed the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) as a law to provide financial aid to UC or CSU students for the 2014-2015 school year.


The eligibility requirements for MCS include household incomes not exceeding $150,000, U.S. citizenship, compliance with all Selective Service registration requirements, not being incarcerated, not being in default on any student loan, exempt from paying nonresident tuition, completing the FAFSA or the California Dream Act Application, and maintaining satisfactory academic progress while in college.


On July 1, the UC and CSU campuses are required to submit an Enrollment File to the California Student Aid Commission with student information that will be used to determine a potential MCS award and to verify the eligibility of applicants. The Commission will calculate the award amount for each student, and any changes to the financial situation of the student that may alter the award would have to be reported to the Commission. The calculations will then be used by the UC or CSU campuses to request funds for students.


“There should be more things like this (the MCS) for students,” Figueroa said. “Everyone needs help to pay for these things because college is really so expensive.”