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UC law schools exempt from tuition increases

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the UC regents announced their funding agreement at the recent regents meeting, the next two years’ tuition freezes for resident undergraduates overshadowed the tuition freeze for UC law students, an overlooked detail of the multi-year funding planning.

The tuition increase exemption for the four UC law schools under the regents’ jurisdiction — Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles and Irvine — is unique among the UC’s graduate programs. All other graduate programs will see increases to their professional degree supplemental fees.

In addition to the base graduate tuitions, the professional degree supplemental fees vary across departments and across different disciplines at different schools. As a result, two different UCs may have different costs for the same professional degrees.

The fees, and their increases, differ with each discipline at each school, with costs for the same degrees varying across different UC campuses.

“Every school in a UC campus has a different policy,” explained a graduate student, who wished to remain anonymous. “For instance in my department, I signed a contract ensuring that I’ll be covered for five years throughout the Ph.D program, but I also have friends in the humanities and engineering department that have different contracts and regulations.”

The professional degree supplemental fees would increase the fees for professional graduate school programs such as medicine, business, and social work. The fee increases are set to be between $1,058 and $1,587 a year.

On the low end, the supplemental tuition will increase tuition for in-state graduate students in some fields, such as veterinary medicine, by 2.5 percent or $5,000 a year.

Most schools, however, will see supplemental tuition increase approximately 5 percent.

For law students at UCLA, Berkeley, Irvine and Davis, this tuition increase would have propelled total tuition to more than $46,000 a year.

Additionally, non-residents are expected to pay a much higher rate than in-state students.

Tommy Du, a recent graduate of UCI Law, said that even as a California resident, tuition required him to take out loans.

“I have taken on debt and it was more than $100,000,” he said.

Brown said he was motivated to freeze tuition because law schools have been enduring very quickly escalating tuition costs in the past few years.

Reports showed that law schools on UC campuses are often the most expensive among the graduate programs. They also indicated that about 85 percent of all UC law students accumulate debt.

In interviews, law students often said that in their first year of working, they face too much debt compared to their expected potential earnings.

This situation motivated Brown and Napolitano to exempt law schools from the professional tuition increases.

On the regent side, the board approved the exemption, which will lower projected revenue streams, after being reassured by more state funding for the UC.