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UC Regents Vote 7-2 to Raise Tuition Despite Student Protests

By Eliza Partika

After a two-year tuition freeze, the UC Board of Regents passed a proposal on Thursday, Jan. 26 to raise annual UC undergraduate and graduate tuition by 2.5 percent. The adjustment will raise tuition by $282 and student services fees by $54, bringing the cost of annual tuition to $12,630 for in-state undergraduate and graduate students. Out-of-state and international undergraduate students will be required to pay a total of $40,644 for tuition and fees.  

The tuition hikes will be implemented in summer 2017 and will be in full effect from the 2017-18 academic year onward.

The tuition increase will create $142.6 million in new revenue from student tuition and fees; one-third of this new revenue, $46.3 million, will be allocated for increased amounts of financial aid, which “for undergraduate students, is more than enough to cover the proposed adjustments to tuition and the Student Services Fee for UC financial aid recipients.” wrote the Committee of Finance in their budget summary.

The day before the Regents’ decision, approximately twenty or thirty UCI students headed by ASUCI  protested the tuition hikes near Langson Library. Students hoped to raise awareness of their current financial situations  which would make another tuition hike even more difficult to pay than the current amount they contribute to University of California’s revenue.

Students stood first in front of the flagpoles, then in front of Aldrich Hall chanting, “Tuition hikes, we don’t consent, students can’t afford their rent!”

According to one of the protest’s leaders, ASUCI External Vice President Taylor Chanes, in the past ASUCI has sent students to the meetings to talk to Regents, and although Regents claim to want to talk to the students, either “nothing comes out of it,” or  “they disregard us.”

Alicia Garcia, ASUCI’s direct liaison with UCSA, an organization that connects student issues to the University of California, stated, “We decided to not send up our students [this time]. They try and sneak in tuition hikes and if we don’t push back they’ll just continue going up.”

Protesters opposed the tuition hike for various reasons; Simran Bhawa, a second year political science major, has only one parent who works, resulting in a heavy financial burden, and Sarah German, a second year, can’t receive financial aid from her parents.

“I can already barely afford to feed myself and pay my rent, and I can’t imagine what losing another $300 is going to do to me,” German said.  

“I’m a California resident, but still — how much more are they going to make me pay?” asked Bhawa.

Tasnim Chowdhury, another protesting student, has a younger brother attending another UC, so it is difficult for their parents to pay for both students, and with the increase in tuition price that task becomes even more difficult.

“Financial aid doesn’t always help,” said Chowdhury.

Chowdhury also mentioned that many students are leaving UCI with thousands of dollars in loans and mounting student debt, so “having to take out more loans to pay more tuition is much more difficult, and not to include that we also have to pay for on-campus or off-campus housing, obviously textbook materials; all that miscellaneous stuff, it all adds up.”

“We have a right to our education. It should be a right; it shouldn’t be a privilege,” Chowdhury added.

The Committee on Finance stressed in the Regents meeting that the increases in financial aid are expected to exceed all proposed adjustments to student charges for approximately two-thirds of California resident undergraduate students, resulting in “no additional expenses and additional resources that these students can use to cover housing, food, books, and other expenses that they face.” Last year, the University of California allocated over $540 million to help students pay for these additional costs.

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom opposed the 7 to 2 vote that approved the tuition hike.

“Wages aren’t keeping pace with the cost of education,” Newsom said. “Middle-class families face the reality of making too much to qualify for a tuition waiver but not enough to meet rising college fees, rent, food, books, and other costs of living.”

Lt. Governor Newsom shared the concerns of many students and UCI families that  the Board’s decision does not indicate  commitment to or concern for the middle class or families of other income levels that may not be able to afford a $400 increase in tuition and fees.

“We are heading in the wrong direction,” Newsom said.