Get Your $2,400

Graduate Division

Only 1,318 students applied for the cost of living supplement (COLS) last year, yet 1,500 awards were available for the roughly 3,000 student currently at UCSF. The odds of receiving the award exceeds 50% if you consider those that were ineligible from living in housing, enrolled beyond five years, or are in a post-baccalaureate or predominantly online program.

For those that are unfamiliar, there is an article published last year that details background on the supplement. In short, COLS is a $2,400 adjustment granted by the administration to students to help with the rising costs of housing.

The requirements are minimal, only an online application and a completed Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). Parental income information from the completed FAFSA will serve as the determinant of need.

In speaking with students, a handful of reasons came up for why they elected not to apply: 1) I don’t feel like I need it — I’d rather someone else get it”; 2) “They will never choose me – my parents may make too much”; 3) “FAFSA is a lot of work”. Whatever your reason, this year you should reconsider.

A recent study completed by Nested found that per square foot San Francisco is the most expensive city to rent in globally. As students, we have all sacrificed something to live in this city, whether it is the number of roommates we have, the areas and amenities we settle for, the need to find free food to save on buying a meal, or any of the myriad of other compromises.

While few of us are starving (if you find yourself skipping meals to stay on budget, consider applying for emergency relief), we all have given up something to come to UCSF and live in the Bay Area.

COLS is a recognition of this reality, and a way for the University to offer some respite to its students. Having as many students as possible apply will send a strong message to the administration that students across all disciplines make sacrifices and may need additional assistance.

COLS is not ideal — ranking by parental income on the FAFSA may not reflect levels of financial support (if any) students receive from their parents. Considering this is a pilot program, the FAFSA allows for streamlining the selection process; minimizing the load on the Student Financial Aid office, which helps make the COLS a possibility.

While the FAFSA can be annoying, it takes under an hour to complete; not a bad way to potentially earn $2,400 dollars. As years pass and data from applicants is obtained, we can ask to re-visit and refine the approach. But until more students apply than available slots, there is little ground to explore alternative methods to facilitate the fair allocation of aid.

COLS is not just about the individual — it is about every student. This year, take the brief time to apply for yourself, apply for your compromises, and apply for your peers. Help strengthen the argument for student aid. Applications are due Monday, March 13th.