Upcoming Fee Increase Confirmed, 10 Percent Speculated

“Some kind of percentage of a fee increase does have to happen.” This statement from Patrick Lenz, the UC vice president of budget, was in response to his Oct. 11 statement in which he hinted at a possible fee increase “anywhere from zero to 20 percent.”

According to Lenz, the October meeting with UC student government leaders educated students on the university budget, state challenges with the budget and why the university relies, to a certain extent, on fee increases.

While Lenz explained that fee increases were determined on the state level, a student at the meeting asked by how much fees would increase if the increase was to happen. Lenz said that it was hard to say, given the UC’s one billion-dollar budget gap and the California state budget’s recent stalemate.

When the student pressed Lenz to give a range of possible fee increases for the coming year, Lenz stated that the fee recommendation from the state could be anywhere from zero to 20 percent to help fund the rising mandatory costs for the UCs.

Lenz explained that this range would only cover the net amount available to address these mandatory costs. Closing the rest of the billion-dollar budget gap would come from earlier fee increases, state funding restoration, additional state funding and earlier budget cuts, according to the 2011-2012 Budget Development documents.

Lenz asked for students not to leave the meeting quoting that he confirmed a fee increase, but did say, “Even with funding for 2011, UC is still about $300 million short.”

He gave an approximate breakdown of what a 10 and 20 percent fee increase would entail:    the former would provide $140 million after financial aid is accounted for, and the latter would give $280 million after financial aid is accounted for.

“This is an unusual year,” Lenz said.  Normally, the UC Regents would be aware of a fee increase by their July meeting, but since a state budget was not passed this summer, everything was hypothetical this year, according to Lenz.

In a statement in response to Lenz and the Oct. 11 meeting, ASUCI executive vice president Andres Gonzalez said, “In a smart move, the fee increase we face may be closer to the 10 percent range this time around because students are still shocked with the previous increase.”

Gonzalez also asked, “What message does that send to our state legislature? Most budget analysts would say that the state was generous in providing funding to the UCs this time around, but the UCs continue to tax the students for the budget gaps.”

In reference to the state, Lenz added that the UCs could request one billion dollars, but the state would be hard pressed to give that amount because of its current fiscal situation. The state would turn to the UCs, instead, and ask how much they could raise through “campus efficiencies.”

Lenz made it clear that the overall situation was overwhelming and that fees were not the first thing the UCs would rely on to close the billion-dollar budget gap. 75 percent of the budget closing will not come from a future fee increase, he stated.

Despite Lenz’s attempt to explain the budget crisis in context, students reacted immediately. UC Berkeley students met on Oct. 14 to organize protests, one of which took place from Oct. 21-22. Another protest is set for Nov. 1, according to mobilizeberkeley.com.

Additionally, UC Davis students met on Oct. 13 to discuss mobilization against the fee increase and will continue to do so every Wednesday, according to http://www.davisvanguard.org.

According to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, the UC Regents are most likely going to vote on the fee increase in their upcoming November or January meeting.

Aside from student fees, other issues the Regents will discuss in regards to the 2011-2012 budget include enrollment, UC retirement plan contributions, employee compensation and health benefits for retirees.

Gonzalez echoed the frustration of many students, saying “The fact is, the governor’s proposed budget funded nearly as much as the university ultimately received and that was months before it even was intended to pass. This means the university knew that we were going to be in a hole from the start.”

Additional reporting by staff writer Traci Garling Lee.