A 9.6 percent tuition increase for University of California schools was approved today by a 14-4 vote of the UC Regents Board.
Despite passionate reservations from several board members, the finance committee approved the tuition hike, an attempt to close $650 million
in state funding cuts in the new state budget.
The hike is the second tuition increase for UC students in the past eight months -- an eight percent increase was already added in November.
The tuition increase will only affect about 55 percent of current students, according to UC officials, because of financial aid options given
to students whose family income is less than $80,000 per year.
The new fees will cover 26 percent of a $1 billion budget shortfall the UC system faces next year. The remaining funds will be made up through cuts to campus services and increased enrollment of out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition than California residents.
Under the new tuition rates, and including all required fees, California resident undergraduate students will pay $13,218 per year and out-of-state students will pay $36,096.
Graduate students in academic programs will pay slightly less, but their tuition will still be raised by 9.6 percent, to $12,824 for Californians and $27,926 for non-residents. Graduate students in professional programs, such as law and business, pay different tuition.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau outlined Berkeley's strategy of increasing out-of-state and international enrollment to generate revenue. California residents receive a large tuition break, so increasing out-of-state enrollment generates significantly more funding.
Birgeneau said UC Berkeley has kept California resident enrollment consistent over the last several years while increasing non-resident enrollment. He said that the extra revenue has allowed Berkeley to provide more services for all students.
Despite the advantages of increasing out-of-state enrollment, several board members worried that if the cuts continue, the university would be forced to turn more and more California residents away in favor of students that pay higher tuition.
There were also concerns that the increased fees would be a disincentive to attracting the most talented graduate students.
Mollie Epstein, a student at UC Berkeley, addressed her concerns during public comments that talented students would not come to UC schools because of the rising costs. "The California school system will lose the best and brightest to schools with better financial aid packages," she said.
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, an ex officio board member, addressed the board and encouraged them to vote against the fee increase. He said the
Legislature would not grant more funding as long as the university accepted the cuts.
"We've become a foregone conclusion here," Newsom said. "Ten years in a row, we've done exactly what the Legislature thought we were going to do. We're going to continue to get them out of hot water. We've become predictable."
Regent Norman Pattiz reacted angrily to Newsom's suggestion. "We don't have the luxury to say 'let's send a message to Congress, or the state
government,'" Pattiz said.
"I'm going to vote for this, and I'm going to hate every minute of it, because tomorrow, we've still got to have the University of California," he said.
Regent Bonnie Reiss said that the cuts threatened the quality of the UC system, and risked turning it into a "second rate" institution. "If Governor Brown and our legislators continue on this path of always putting us on the chopping block, they are risking a legacy of presiding over the demise
of higher education in our state," she said.
But she said she would not support future cuts and fee increases because she believes "they are in grave danger of becoming second-rate," she
said. "I hope but doubt the governor and the Legislature have the courage to take responsibility for these tuition increases."
Student protesters gathered outside the meeting dressed in costume, and several students addressed the board before the vote to voice
Joseph Silva, a student at UCLA who addressed the board dressed as Captain America, said he thinks the California government is prioritizing corporations over higher education. "An investment in our higher education will have greater returns than tax breaks for corporations by far," he said.
Julia Gettle, a student at UC Berkeley who spent the summer working for the state government in Sacramento, said the board should confront the state legislature more directly. "We need to stop playing nice and tell them that these continued cuts are unfair and we can't take this anymore," she said.
Andrew Albright, a student at UC Berkeley, said the fee increase could end his plans to pursue a double major. "As the UC Regents you should have a vested interest in supporting a strong and competitive work force, but the policies you pursue do just the opposite," he said.
The increases to the UC system come just days after California State University raised its tuition by 12 percent. Both institutions have had their state funding cut by $650 million each, and both are bracing for another potential cut of $100 million later this year.