Tuition Hikes Imminent: What You Should Know

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Tomorrow, the University of California Board of Regents is set to approve a proposal that would implement an annual tuition increase, capped at 5 percent, for the next five years.

According to the Regents, the tuition increase is necessary due to a lack of sufficient funding from the state.

The money from the increase will go to an array of goals, including enrolling 5,000 more California students over the next five years, improving the student-faculty ratio and bolstering student mental health services.

Tuition is currently $11,220 for undergraduate students. If increased by 5 percent next year, it will rise by $564 to $11,784. By the end of five years, tuition will be $14,322 if increases of 5 percent continue.

The student services fee, which funds non-instructional programs will also increase by as much as 5 percent per year.

Currently $972, the student services fee will increase by as much as $48 next year. Annual 5 percent increases will result in a $1,242 fee in 2019-2020 academic year. After contributing to financial aid funds, up to half of the revenue from this fee will be allocated towards supporting student mental health services.

The reason that money is desperately needed stems from cuts to the UC’s budget allocation that started during Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s term. During the 2001-2002 year, under Governor Gray Davis, the UC’s budget was $3.2 billion dollars (adjusted for today’s inflation). After a 15 percent cut and a slight increase, the budget stood at $2.9 billion when Brown was appointed in 2011.

After adjusting for inflation, the UC budget had been reduced by one-third while the student population had risen by one-third.

For the past three years, the university has frozen tuition at 2011-2012 levels. In exchange, in 2013, after relying heavily on students to pass Proposition 30, Governor Brown increased his budget allocation to the UC for four years.

The amount of money the UC has seen from the proposition has not been significant, however, amounting to what UC President Napolitano referred to as an eyedrop.

For the past two years, Brown increased his budget for the UC by 5 percent. For next year and the following year, these increases are expected to be 4 percent.

The UC’s budget proposal is relying on the upcoming year’s 4 percent increase, despite it being predicated on a tuition freeze.

Students who currently receive financial aid will likely continue to do so, even with the tuition increases. According to Nathan Brostrom, the UC’s chief financial officer, the increase allows for the financial aid profile to remain roughly the same. Currently, 55 percent students have their tuition fully covered by financial aid packages comprised of scholarships, state and federal grants, as well as those offered by the university. 14 percent of students are partially covered by financial aid, while the remaining 31 percent of students pay tuition in full.

So far, the tuition proposal has drawn support from all 10 current UC Chancellors.

“Our campuses have become leaner and more efficient –– but there remains a funding gap that, if left unaddressed, imperils the future of the University of California,” read a letter released shortly after the proposal’s announcement.

17 former chancellors released a letter expressing their support of the proposal as well. Former UCI Chancellor Michael Drake’s name, however, was missing from the letter of support submitted by the former chancellors.

A recurring justification from UC administrators for the current tuition proposal is that UC achieved approximately $660 million in savings and revenue in the past four years by making its administrative costs more efficient.

Although the Council of UC Faculty Associations denounced the increase, it echoed UC administrators, putting responsibility on the state to alleviate rising tuition. In its Nov. 13 statement, the CUCFA called upon Governor Jerry Brown to fund higher education at a level that would return tuition to 2001-2002 rates, which would be $4,717 after accounting for inflation.

In a report released last December, the CUCFA calculated that under a new tax initiative, this would only cost the median California household an additional $50 a year. According to the paper, the university would need to increase its mandatory costs to $22,846 in order to return to 2001-2002 levels of resources available for students. This would mean an 87 percent increase in the tuition and fees that students would have to pay each year.

Currently, the average student-faculty ratio across the UC is 18.7-to-1. Before the fiscal crisis, it was 21-to-1. According to Napolitano, this problem was exacerbated by both an increase of 20,000 in student population since, as well as a decline in lecturers due to insufficient funds.

While Governor Brown has remained adamant against tuition increases, he also recently vetoed an initiative that would have allocated $50 million in funds for deferred projects that the UC deemed were necessary in maintaining its infrastructure, especially amidst a burgeoning student population.

Amidst the rhetoric that students should point the finger at the state for the UC’s financial predicament, Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin urged students to be critical of the university as well.

In a workshop she gave at the University of California Student Association’s, Students of Color Conference, she reminded students that only several regents attended the last joint lobbying session with students in Sacramento, while another lobby date was cancelled altogether.

“The UC needs to stop pushing responsibility on the state and the state needs to stop pushing responsibility on the UC,” said Saifuddin, who charged that neither have fulfilled their responsibilities to students.

“We need to redirect the conversation,” Saifuddin said, from faulting the state or the UC to one that revolves around students working together with UC administrators and California legislators to reach a solution.

“It’s the job of the state to give [the UC] the resources to make that happen. And it’s the job of the UC to give us quality education.”