For those of you who will be balancing Cal and parenting, I'd like to extend a warm welcome from a network of student parents with children ranging in age from newborn babies to others with their own kids in college...and everything in between! We're looking forward to answering questions and sharing information, resources, and support that will help you transition and succeed at UC Berkeley.
First things first…
Student Intent to Register (SIR)
If you haven't done so already, you will probably need to accept your offer of admission, while taking a leap of faith that housing, child care/schools and financial aid will all ultimately get worked out!
And in between now and the Summer orientations, there are a number of ways to get your questions answered and begin to put your plans to attend Cal in place!
At the risk of overwhelming you with too much input, we've provided some key areas of information and web page links below, intended to provide additional guidance and reassurance!
And once you've checked out all the info, and have even more questions...here are some options for beginning a dialogue with Student Parent Center staff and interns:
1). Your initial offer probably says it's conditional, pending verification. You didn't make any mistakes..it's a routine step in the process for independent students.
*Verification: As an independent student with dependents, you'll be required to go through a verification process to document your income and establish that you have a dependent (provide a birth certificate). Basically you'll need a copy of your tax return, or if you did not need to file, there's a box to check (ignore the fact that it says " I and/or my spouse" it also applies if you are single/unmarried).
You'll be asked to list your household members and to establish who you provide support for (50% or more).
If you are a parent but don't claim your child on your taxes that's okay, just use the explanation boxes to describe your situation. And be sure to put zeros in any box that you don't have any income!
You can also include child care expenses on this form if you know what they will be from August-May of the academic school year. But if you don't know yet, that's okay, that can be added later when you have that information.
2). Once you've verified you'll get an initial offer based on a "standard student budget" formula, with awards of grants and/or loans available to you, with the balance of the budgeted costs covered by a "student/family contribution". (Many of you may have a zero student contribution). A number of things can still be done at this point to adjust your financial aid:
Student Contribution Appeal: If the income (and/or a spouse's income) that you documented for your FAFSA application (on which your initial financial aid offer will be based) will be changing when you start school, you can update your financial information using this appeal form, which may result in additional grant or loan eligibility.
Budget Appeals for family expenses: Student parents are initially packaged based on the same set of expenses provided for in a "standard student budget". Students who are eligible for need-based awards and have family-related expenses can submit a Budget Appeal to request an increased financial aid package to help cover child care, housing, and other family maintenance expenses (like food, clothing, transportation). The process for this normally begins in August.If you live in Family Housing your budget for rent will be automatically adjusted. If you have allowable one-time expenses that are not included in the initial standard budget, for example moving expenses to relocate to Cal or a computer purchase. Save those receipts for a standard budget appeal in the Fall.If you have "family-related" expenses (for example for children's food, clothing) that are not included in a standard student budget and you also meet specific low-income requirements, you will be able to add a family-related expenses budget addendum to your regular budget appeal. Loans will be offered once you have been offered all free-gift aid. So staff and interns at the Student Parent Center can go over all of these situations in more detail...and you can even fax your documentation/appeals to the Financial Aid Office from the student parent program fax machine.
3) You will have 3 (yes, 3) years of financial aid eligibility as a new transfer student. So, many parents are able to take less than 13 units a semester, and still retain a full financial aid package...and take an additional semester or year to graduate.
Reduced Course Loads
4) Student parents with majors in the College of Letters and Sciences and also in the College of Natural Resources can submit a reduced course load request, based on family responsibilities, (and also for other reasons, like employment) and often do so, especially in the first transitional semesters. Other colleges (Engineering, Chemistry, Business, College of Environmental Design) do not have a formal policy, but do approve reduced course schedules on a case by case basis. In most instances you will retain the same level of financial aid grants, but the sources may change a bit. This policy can also provide a way for students to reduce to half time (6 units) due to pregnancy. As a student parent in Letters and Sciences you are able to request a reduced course load, typically a minimum of 8 units, for parenting reasons.
College of Letters and Science: Reduced Course Load Due to Parenthood:http://ls-advise.berkeley.edu/fp/StudentParentVerification.pdf
College of Natural Resources Reduced Course Load Due to Parenthood: http://nature.berkeley.edu/site/forms/oisa/reduced_course_load_parenthood.pdf
Take a tour! http://www.housing.berkeley.edu/livingatcal/video_apt_view.html
There is university owned family housing for students with children (married and not married, single and not-single parents). Your primary eligibility documentation will be based on providing a copy of your child/children's birth certificate. Family Housing is located in University Village in the City of Albany (with direct bus service to campus). Families are eligible to enroll in Albany Schools, which include a pre-school, on-site elementary school, after-school programs and a Teen center.
Cost! the rents can be initially shocking, but they do include all utilities, and it eliminates the costs of commuting. Bus passes to campus are free, and a free parking space at your apartment is included. Your financial aid "need" can be adjusted to include the full cost of rent (in loans), which may increase your overall package. Most student parents receive a $8,600 student parent grant (unique to Berkeley!) over and above other grant eligibility, to help cover family related expenses (like rent) and additional loans will usually be available to cover any "unmet need".
Family housing deadline: Applications are accepted on an on-going basis (no deadline!) but it's important to apply as soon as possible. You can indicate a preferred move-in date anytime between now and the start of the semester, depending on your current housing obligations.
Last year new undergrads were able to obtain a housing assignment with move in dates in June/July/August. The application fee should automatically be waived if you are a Pell Grant recipient. The $250 deposit, and first month's rent payment may also be able to be deferred to be paid by your Fall financial aid disbursement, if you ask for a deferment from the Apartment Assignments Coordinator. So don't assume you don't have access to Berkeley's Family Housing if you don't have access to the deposit and first month's rent!
Documentation of single parent status: if you don't have a formal agreement that says you have 50+ percent custody of your child/children, you can submit a notarized statement, which we can provide!
If you have other ambiguous situations, like married but separated, unmarried but partners.. just let us know if you need assistance in figuring out what documentation is required.
Documentation of Residency to be able to enroll in school/apply for childcare: Even if you have not yet moved, as soon as you sign a lease, you can request a letter from the Apartment Assignments Coordinator to provide to the Albany Unified School District
The Housing Assignments Office
2610 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94720-2272
Childcare Programs and Schools
The campus Early Childhood Education Program (ECEP) serves infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, at sites on campus and in University Family Housing. Low-income subsidized spots are limited, and full fee spaces are unaffordable for most student families.
If you are applying to the University sponsored Early Childhood Education Program, spaces start being assigned in mid-May, so apply now! The applications can be downloaded at: http://ece.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/ECEP_SubsidizedApplication_2014-15.pdf and you can email the Student Parent Center if you have questions about the documentation needed to complete the subsidized child care application.
If you don't yet know yet what your income will be, you should be able to provide a conditional financial aid offer letter from your MyFinAid website, to attach to the application.
Also if you do have to apply after the deadline, indicate you are a newly admitted transfer student.
ECEP Contact information:
2610 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94720
Phone: (510) 642-1827
If you are considering living in family housing, here are links for the Albany School District: http://www.ausdk12.org/ and the Albany Children's Center, and After School Programs.
The Berkeley Unified School District Children's Centers and the Berkeley-Albany Headstart Programs are another possibility for subsidized Child Care, and we have the intake/eligibility forms available at the Student Parent Center.
Need to transition other benefits or to document your continued eligibility while at Cal?
The Student Parent Center can serve as your source of documentation for CalWorks, MediCal, Section 8, and Food stamps by providing income verification, training program certification, monthly progress reports, subsidized child care verification, internships to meet work requirements and referrals and advocacy for transfer or continuation of benefit eligibility. Just let us know!
The Disabled Students' Program ensures all students with diabilities have equal access to educational opportunities at UC Berkeley. Their service is individually designed, and based on specific needs of each student as identifies by their Disability Specialists.
Title IX law requires that schools receiving federal funds not discriminate against students on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy and related conditions like childbirth, pregnancy termination, and recovery. This prohibition against discrimination comes in a number of forms – for example, students must not be forced to attend a different program or school than their peers, must be given the opportunity to make up missed work for pregnancy-related absences, must be treated the same as if they had a temporary disability, and may not be excluded from sports or extracurricular activities.
AND ONE MORE Information Resource (for now):
The Berkeley Parents Network listserve was started a number of years ago by a graduate student at Cal, and now covers a bay area wide membership and includes multiple weekly postings covering Schools, Pre-schools, Camps and Childcare as well as a Marketplace (including free stuff) and Parenting Advice. Check out past postings at http://parents.berkeley.edu/ and subscribe at http://parents.berkeley.edu/subscribers.html
FINALLY, The Bottom Line!
Welcome to Cal, and don't hesitate to contact the Student Parent Center if you need additional information to be able to make an informed decision about accepting your offer of admissions, or any assistance from fellow student parents as you begin to navigate your way around Cal!