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USAC scholarship attempts to tackle textbook affordability issues

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Financial Supports Commission gave 40 students scholarships in the form of $50 gift cards to help pay for textbooks. Over 130 students applied. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Megan Son

Jan. 24, 2019 12:17 a.m.

Alex Saucedo said he sometimes had to choose between being able to purchase the required textbooks for his classes and having food to eat for the day.

Saucedo, a third-year sociology student, is one of the recipients of a textbook scholarship created by the Undergraduate Students Association Council Financial Supports Commission. The office created the scholarship to address the issue of textbook affordability on campus.

Sui Shan Cheng, the daily affordability director for the FSC and a third-year economics student, said the problem of textbook affordability is often overlooked due to other larger expenses.

“As a student, I know the burden of textbook costs,” Cheng said. “With every quarter, professors are demanding more and more – even new editions – and that is a concern that is often overlooked because we also have additional expenses as students.”

Forty recipients were chosen to receive $50 gift cards to the UCLA textbook store out of over 130 applicants.

The commission decided on $50 as the award amount because it allowed them to provide a meaningful subsidy to each student selected but also give scholarships to as many students as possible, said Jay Manzano, Financial Supports commissioner and a fourth-year Chicana and Chicano studies student.

Although the scholarship is only $50 per person, it makes a difference, said Saucedo. Saucedo said he borrowed textbooks from the library or from a friend last quarter instead of purchasing them so he could afford other necessities like food.

“I’m always risking it. I have to ask myself: ‘Do I force myself to not spend money on food today?’” Saucedo said. “With that $50, I am able to buy myself something to eat.”

Saucedo hopes the scholarship will continue in future years.

“I think it’s beneficial for anyone who receives this scholarship because I know that they’re just like me,” he said.

Recipients were chosen according to a three-tier system, Manzano said.

Applicants were asked to mark their family’s expected financial contribution, which is the amount a family is expected to pay for their student’s college education.

The first tier is comprised of students with an EFC of zero, the second tier is students with an EFC of over 1000 and the third tier is students who did not mark their EFC.

Ninety percent of recipients had an EFC of zero dollars, Manzano said.

“We wanted to ensure we were giving the scholarship to students who were most in need,” he said.

Scholarship recipient Sharlene Lim, a fourth-year psychobiology student, said although the scholarship does not cover the full cost of her textbooks for the quarter, $50 is a fair amount because it helps pay for at least a portion of the cost, but still allows for as many students as possible to receive aid.

“I have to pay tuition, I have to pay for rent,” Lim said. “Being able to get the scholarship, I felt a little weight off my shoulders.”

Manzano said the FSC created the scholarship based on a theory that social change is achieved by providing tangible resources and services in addition to advocacy.

“If you want to challenge the issue of textbook affordability in a policy-oriented way, that might take a very long time,” Manzano said. “And while you’re working on that, students are still struggling to pay for textbooks. So to supplement that, we wanted to provide resources for a more immediate relief for students.”

The commission plans on granting another scholarship in spring quarter, Manzano said. He said he is unsure if the spring scholarship will continue to provide gift cards for textbooks or instead provide entrance exam prep books for the MCAT and LSAT.

Although the scholarship has benefitted students, the commission recognizes there are many more students who need financial support on campus, Manzano added.

“We don’t ever want to report that we’re ending college financial insecurity but what we do hope to do is provide students with at least some resources,” he said.

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Megan Son
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