Fix UC: Can We Repair What’s Broken?

The UC System is broke. California is broke. You know that. I know that. The question now is what the heck can we do about it? Strikes, protests and petitions are the first things that come to mind, and while these are great tools to let everyone know what we support and don’t support, what may be working and what must change, these methods do not really produce solid, tangible results.

This is where some active and innovative minds from the University of California, Riverside, come in. Over the course of nine months, students at UCR, some of whom are members of the UCR Highlander Newspaper Editorial Board and ASUCR, have developed a Student Investment Proposal which outlines a revolutionary new way to have UC students pay for school.

So here’s the deal: The proposal, titled the UC Student Investment Proposal, or Fix UC, is centered around the idea that students will not pay anything upfront. Sounds epic already, right? Of course, we can’t get away from paying up that easily. The proposal claims that once a student graduates and finds a stable job, they will pay 5 percent of their annual income back to the school, interest-free, over the course of about 20 years. The complete proposal and data models can be found online at www.fixuc.org.

The projected future of the UC Student Investment Plan appears to be stable and beneficial. Eventually, about seven years after the plan is initiated, the total revenue UC receives will overtake the current amount of revenue they receive under the pay-now-think-later system in place right now.

Paying a fixed, interest-free rate back to the school only after acquiring a stable job is every college graduate’s dream. No pre-career debt, no student loans accumulating interest, no need to work 40 hours a week to pay off a quarter’s worth of tuition. No stress. Just learning, experiencing and having fun, which should be what college is all about. It actually sounds like the perfect plan — seven years into the future. I’m worried about now, and exactly how we can put this plan into action. It’ll take seven years, after all, before we can see any real results, and I fear those seven transitional years will end up preventing this plan from ever seeing the light of day.

The UC system is already broke enough as it is. How can we expect them to fund all of these student fees for the seven-year transitional period when they are already squeezing us for every penny in our wallets and every dollar in our bank accounts? The UC Student Investment Plan claims that the first group of students to undergo the program “will attend UC with no up-front costs, just as they would have before the UC Student Investment Plan [on the Blue and Gold program].” That doesn’t mean they are going into the system scot-free, though. What about the costs of textbooks and other campus-specific fees that aren’t covered by the Blue and Gold Plan? What about variable costs, like when a student switches from on-campus housing to off-campus housing, or if a student no longer is eligible for the Blue and Gold plan for one academic year? Financial aid, after all, can change with each academic year, as we all know thanks to the wonderful FAFSA filing we go through each spring.

And what about the students who won’t be a part of the transitional period? Only students whose UC fees will be covered by the Blue and Gold plan can be a part of this transition, after all, which leaves the rest of the students with the same burden of tuition that we all face right now.

Will tuition continue to rise during the implementation of the UC Student Investment Plan? Will it rise because of the Investment Plan? If that will be the case, then wouldn’t the cost per student rise as well, thus making it even more difficult for the UC system to cover it during this transitional period?

The UC Student Investment Plan appears to have been created under the assumption that the cost of attending UC will remain constant. We all know that is pretty much impossible.

Tuition will be going up in the next few years, further draining the funding from the UC system, the state, the federal government, and all of our personal bank accounts. Something tells me that even if the UC Student Investment Plan is put into action, the system will find other ways to get students to pay money upfront.

Maybe I’m just cynical. Maybe it’s because I don’t think anything can fix this sadly broken system. But to me, it does not seem as though the UC system can make this plan happen.

Overall, it’s a good plan. It’s innovative and different, sounds fair and manageable, and it is definitely a heck of a lot better than paying inordinate amounts of money up front, landing us all in debt before we even know what career we want when we graduate.

I commend my fellow UC students for finally being proactive and bringing forth a solid solution to this incredibly pressing issue, which is more than most of the administration has done so far. Their plan is extensively researched and developed, and addresses most of the initial questions that arise after reading the proposal. They have a perfect plan for the future. The problem is how they’ve glossed over the present, and exactly what it will take to get us to that idyllic, almost too-good-to-be-true future in their plan.

For the sake of future generations of UC students, I hope it works out, but I fear that it might also be a plan too ambitious to be possible.

Monica Fernandez is a third-year English major. She can be reached at mpfernan@uci.edu.