Napolitano Talks Trump and Tuition Hikes

As the new year begins and concerns of what a Trump presidency could mean for students continue to arise, UC President Janet Napolitano sat down with the New University on Jan. 6 to discuss student enrollment growth, tuition increases and undocumented student resources during the incoming administration.

The UC system is currently undergoing an unprecedented expansion in numbers of students, prompting a demand for resources for the growing student population. UC Irvine welcomed 100 new faculty members earlier this year and plans to hire more in the future. A new housing initiative, first announced on Jan. 20, 2016, to add 14,000 beds across the UC campuses is also underway. Additionally, this year, Napolitano wants to push for more state funding for graduate students, which the school failed to receive last year.

In-state tuition hasn’t changed for six years so one of the UC Regents’ primary challenges in accommodating the growth of the UC population has been securing adequate funding. President Napolitano addressed her plan to increase in-state UC tuition by 2.5 percent over a span of three years. The tuition increase would only apply to students with a household income above $150,000. Families with an income of $80,000 or less do not pay UC tuition, noted Napolitano.

“In any event,” said Napolitano, “I’m with students in that tuition needs to be as low as possible, and predictable. We need to help students in low income households … that is what we strive to do.”

She also acknowledged that students will protest the increase, but that it is a necessary step at this point.

“I think we would all love for tuition to never be raised again, [but] that would require the state to put in substantially more money. I’m concerned about quality,” she said. “We need to maintain affordability but also maintain a level of academic experience. If we’re going to have tuition increased, it needs to be as low as possible and accompanied by financial aid. At least two-thirds of the student body should have their tuition increase covered.”

In a news release on the UC website on Jan. 4, UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein confirmed that currently more than half of California undergraduate students receive financial aid to completely cover the cost of tuition and that this “will continue to be the case.”

Raising tuition also increases Cal Grants, which means low-income students will receive more financial aid.

President Napolitano also noted the ways UC is saving money, including forming its own captive insurance company which is saving $160 million a year. UC is also increasing revenue from philanthropy and licensing fees.

In regards to undocumented students, Napolitano admitted there is no answer yet for what a  Trump administration means for the UC’s protections of such students, but recognized students’ anxieties and the need for programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to protect these students.

“We are not turning university police into surrogate immigration officers,” said Napolitano.

She continued to note that legal services are currently provided for undocumented students but will need to be expanded should President Trump repeal the DACA program.   

“I don’t think that deporting other students is good law enforcement practice. They were educated here, they got into UC here, they are good students.”

“What do you say to people who say undocumented students are not worthy of government funding?” said Napolitano.I think these are the kind of young people that you want to stay in the country. Why spend deportation funding on young people who have done everything we have asked them to do? Their being undocumented … shouldn’t outweigh those other characteristics.”

Written with additional reporting by Lilly Ball