The University of California Board of Regents announced last Thursday its plans to implement an annual tuition increase, capped at 5 percent, for the next five years.
The proposed plan will likely go into effect at the Nov. 19-20 Regents meeting. So far, indications from top UC administrators as well as student representatives point to the increase as inevitable.
Framed as a stabilization of tuition pricing for students and their families, the plan seeks to mitigate the volatility in tuition rates that the UC has seen in recent years.
“Too often we waited to see what would happen in the state budget,” said Nathan Brostrom, chief financial officer for the UC, in a conference call last Thursday. Previously, students found out the cost of tuition in the middle of summer, after the state’s budget was finalized. In 2012, students faced the possibility of a mid-year tuition increase, avoided through the passage of Proposition 30. Under the proposed plan, students will know how much they will be paying in tuition for the next five years.
UC President Janet Napolitano warned, however, that the caveat is what the state decides to do regarding its contributions to UC funds. Currently, Governor Brown has promised 4 to 5 percent increases to UC funding each year provided that tuition levels stay frozen at 2011-2012 levels.
Napolitano emphasized that the 5 percent increase is a proposed ceiling intended to project the worst case scenario students and families will face. The possibility of it being decreased hangs upon an influx of funds from the state.
Brostrom that the state would have to double its planned $119 million contribution in order to avoid a tuition increase. However, he was pessimistic, saying that there are no current indications that more money would come from the state.
Despite Governor Brown’s annual increases to UC contributions, the university’s costs outstrip funding from the state. According to the proposal, state contributions only translate to a 1.7 percent annual increase in UC’s academic budget, a rate below that of inflation and unsustainable to meet students’ needs.
“Something we cherish is our commitments to financial aid,” said Brostrom, who warned that if state contributions decline, financial aid programs would be hurt.
Currently, 55 percent of in-state undergraduate students pay no tuition. 14 percent are partially covered by financial aid packages and 31 percent pay full tuition.
The University of California Students Association condemned the proposed tuition increased in a press release Thursday, calling the increase a political maneuver on behalf of the UC that uses students as leverage against the state.
“UCSA views the plan proposed by UCOP as one that does not prioritize students, but ratherholds them hostage for the future of their education,” it said.
During the call, Brostrom also addressed the misconception that UC is edging out Californian students in favor of students from out of state, who pay more tuition. The tuition from non-resident students, who make up 4 to 15 percent of the population depending on the campus, boosts enrollment of California students. According to Brostrom, during the fiscal crisis, an increase in non-residents allowed the UC to add 6,000 students.
Despite heavy student mobilization for the passage of Proposition 30, the University of California was not earmarked any funds.
According to Brostrom, the UC has done its part to reduce costs and now needs Governor Brown to show interest in increasing funding for higher education.
“Don’t look at us as an appropriation. Look at us as an investment.”