SAN FRANCISCO – Whether you consider tuition increases necessary in the face of declining state funding or view them as an undue burden on the backs of students, reality boils down to one thing: Student tuition is likely to continue to rise at least into the near future.
A budget plan to be discussed by the UC Board of Regents Thursday includes annual tuition increases of at least 8 percent and as high as 16 percent for the next four years. The plan comes on the heels of a 10 percent tuition increase approved at the board’s July meeting — the third increase since November 2009.
That vote raised systemwide fees — composed of student tuition and a student services fee — to $12,192.
The purpose of the multi-year plan — which will only be discussed at Thursday’s meeting and will not be acted upon until the board’s November gathering — is to address the $2.5 billion funding gap the university says it will face over that time period.
The model states that tuition would be increased by 8 percent annually to supplement corresponding 8 percent increases in funding the UC would also seek from the state.
However, if the state fails to meet those budgetary requests — a distinct possibility, considering state funding for the UC has dropped by $900 million from its 2007-08 levels and could drop a further $100 million if trigger cuts are enacted in January — tuition could increase by as much as 16 percent annually to fill the resulting gap.
In an interview Wednesday, Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr. said that he would vote against any fee increase but that the state’s consistently reduced funding forces the board to consider them.
“When the state continues to divest from us, it’s our duty to maintain quality,” Mireles said. “The goal (of the plan) is to shame Sacramento into funding (the UC).”
But instead of shaming the state government into funding the university, several speakers at Wednesday’s meeting raised the concern that planning student fee increases could pave Sacramento a path around increasing funding for the UC.
If faced with the choice between funding the university, which has funds relatively available in the form of student fees, and another state service without such a liquid source of money — prisoners can’t be counted on to pay tuition, for example — some fear the state would allow students to pick up that slack.
Read the UC report outlining the multi-year budget proposal, annotated by higher education reporter Damian Ortellado:
Jordan Bach-Lombardo is the university news editor.
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