The topics of the day were financial concerns including tuition hikes, budget proposals and the increase of student debt. Rounding out the panel to discuss these issues were Associated Students of UCI Executive Vice President Kyle Olney, and Tuition Relief Now representative Jesse Cheng.
According to a letter written by UC President Robert Dynes, in order to alleviate the state’s budget crisis, the state of California is proposing a 7.4-percent increase in mandatory system-wide fees, a 7-percent increase in educational fees and a 10-percent increase in registration fees.
These fees are broken down into three categories: educational fees that pay for faculty salaries and financial services; registration fees that pay for student services, such as the Bren Events Center facility and other entertainment venues; and user fees that pay for medical and legal services.
The panel noted that most students are not even aware of this tuition breakdown or that a tuition hike is occurring. First-year political science major Cristina Gonzalez shared this sentiment.
“We’re getting charged for things that we’re not even aware of, such as the campus spirit fee. It makes me angry,” Gonzalez said.
Should the Board of Regents decide to carry out these increases, students will be asked to spend about $500-$1,000 more in the upcoming fiscal year. This would mean that tuition for UCI would spike from about $8,000 a year to anywhere from about $8,500 to $9,000 in the 2008-2009 school year.
These changes to the already extraneous price tag for education had first-year Spanish major Cynthia Quintero frustrated.
“I’m one of those students without financial aid. [These fees are] just money out of our own pockets,” Quintero said.
Scorza felt strongly that the proposal makes a false assumption that those who attend UCs are affluent and have more than enough means to sustain their college finances. However, according to Scorza, this assumption is incredibly misleading because many college students receive some form of financial aid to pay for their education.
Scorza further emphasized that tuition hikes do not exclusively affect students, but the community at large. Many parents are the main financial source for tuition and if they cannot earn enough money to pay for these fees, getting a college education for their children may be less feasible.
Because of the various issues contributing to tuition hikes, the panel has made a number of attempts to circumvent the increase. For example, through the grass-roots efforts of Cheng and other Tuition Relief Now volunteers, 250,000 signatures were collected for a petition to stop tuition hikes. This has resulted in a bill currently on the floor of the California Assembly known as AB 2372, which will freeze tuition costs for five years if passed.
Although numerous actions are being taken to fight tuition hikes, Olney emphasized that the lack of active participation on behalf of the student body as a whole are rendering such efforts moot.
“People don’t go to UC Regents meetings, there is a lack of serious reporting in the media, and people are just apathetic,” Olney said.
One point made clear by the end of the meeting was that community activism and involvement are necessary as vehicles of change.
“I thought the meeting was thorough,” said fourth-year political science major Daniel Choi. “It addressed the issues that people didn’t know about. We should be more powered as students and be more involved.”
Scorza concluded the session by reiterating the importance of vigilance.
“If you don’t get informed,” Scorza said, “you become ignorant, and because of this ignorance, you become powerless.”
The Regents will decide what actions are to be taken concerning tuition hikes in May.
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