Bringing a close to weeks of rumors and announcements, the Regents of the University of California approved the five-year tuition increase last Wednesday at their bimonthly meeting.
The tuition and fee schedule set by the regents will increase mandatory costs, which include tuition and a student service fee, by up to 5 percent every year for the next five years. For the 2019-2020 academic year, students can expect to pay as much as $15,564 in tuition fees alone.
Touted as a much needed measure due to a lack of sufficient funding from the state, the regents’ plan sets to bring stability to tuition rates, which have seen spikes in recent years.
For the students across the UC who actually have to shoulder the burden of the regents’ plan, however, Wednesday’s decision brought about more of the same frustrations.
On Tuesday, in anticipation of the announcement, over 150 UC Irvine students, both undergraduate and graduate, descended upon the flagpoles to protest.
“No ifs, no buts, no fees, no cuts!” they chanted while members gathered for the noontime protest.
“Dear chancellor, if you can hear us, we demand you take your name off the letter supporting the tuition increase!” said Parshan Khosravi, commissioner of the Organizing Branch of the ASUCI Office of the Executive Vice President.
According to Khosravi, the administration approached the demonstration’s organizers beforehand, presenting them a permit to use amplified sound outside the normally allowed timeframe of noon to 1 p.m. In exchange, the organizers would refrain from demanding Chancellor Howard Gillman to remove his support of the increase.
The organizers refused. Furthermore, they criticized the recent pay raises granted to several regents, including Gillman.
Although regent compensation represents less than 1 percent of the UC budget, students have raised concerns about the university’s priorities as students continue to pay more for their education.
“I’m no piggy bank!” shouted protesters as they reconvened in front of Aldrich Hall after marching around Ring Road.
They found Aldrich Hall on lockdown to bar students from entering. Behind locked doors, police officers stood watch. Administrators and staff members who wanted to enter the building had to present staff identification and enter through the doors leading to the financial aid wing of Aldrich Hall.
For a moment, the walkway connecting the administration’s building to Ring Road was a buffer between the two groups of protesters, one that had gathered directly at the doors and windows and those who waited sheepishly on Ring Road.
“Join us!” shouted the students standing directly beneath the offices of UCI’s top administrators. Encouraged by the supportive cheers, the students who were initially hesitant to escalate the protest closed the gap to reform the mass of protesters.
One student, although frustrated with the increases, said that the increases wouldn’t affect her due to the financial aid she receives. She was more unhappy with Aldrich Hall’s shutdown, as well as the protesters that caused it, because, coincidentally, she had financial aid matters to settle.
Indeed, the increase will have the most impact on students who don’t receive financial aid and whose families will have to pay, to some extent, an ever-increasing sticker price to attend a UC.
Although administrators have maintained that the financial aid profile will remain the same, with only 45 percent of students having to pay tuition to some extent, some students will be more poignantly affected than others. Students who qualify for full financial aid packages have a significant amount of their costs mitigated while those from families with high incomes can afford to pay the full price of a UC education.
Students whose families make only marginally more than the middle-income cutoff for financial aid, especially families that have to send multiple children to college, will face the most challenging financial outlook. Even with funds from the imminent Middle Class Scholarship Act, middle-income students’ financial aid packages are not as aggressive as low-income students. However, at the same time, even though their families are classified as middle-income, a nebulous category that encompasses a wide range of incomes, they still may face hardship in affording college for one, not to mention multiple, children.
Even then, financial aid packages aren’t always enough to fully cover expenses such as housing, books and other costs of living, necessitating students to take loans or take one or even multiple jobs.
Outside of students already attending the UC, increased costs will also be a prohibitive factor that may bar prospective students from attending.
At the Mission Bay campus of UC San Francisco where the meeting was held, student protesters matched their peers across the UC with formidable demonstrations of resistance as well.
Online videos show students linking arms, attempting to block regents, including UC chief financial officer Nathan Brostrom, from entering the Nov. 18 meeting.
The tuition increase passed 14-7. Ex-officio regents Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson voted against the proposals. Regents John Perez, a former California Assemblyman and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, president of Long Beach City College, who were appointed by Brown last Monday, also voted against the increase.
Student Regent, Sadia Saifuddin voted against the increase as well.
Although some are hailing Brown and company as advocates of higher education who are keeping the students’ best interests in mind, the governor vetoed a bill in September that had passed through the Legislature that would have given $50 million appropriations to the UC and California State University systems.