California’s public universities could be required to begin discussing the possibility of fee increases with students six months before implementing future tuition increases if a bill passed by the state Senate Wednesday is made into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
AB 970 — on which Brown has until Sept. 30 to make a decision — would require that the California State University Board of Trustees start consulting with student associations six months before implementing future fee increases. Because the University of California is independent of the Legislature, the bill’s requirements would apply to the university only to the extent that the UC Board of Regents integrates it into its policies.
“A little bit of notification and transparency is good,” said Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), who authored the bill along with Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego). “It will give the UCs and the CSUs half a year from when they decide on the increase and when they can implement it. I’m glad I’m able to enhance transparency for students and parents.”
The CSU has come out in support of the bill, while the UC is currently neutral toward it.
“We have attempted to provide our students with as much advanced warning as we can,” said Andrew Martinez, a legislative advocate for the CSU. “But any time you put restrictions on tuition, that’s a concern for the university, since almost all funding comes from either the state or tuition.”
In the case of a midyear state budget cut affecting higher education, the bill would only require that universities give students 30 days’ notice before instituting tuition increases.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi, who sits on the board of the UC Student Association, said the UCSA will do its best to advocate for the bill’s implementation.
“In this day and age, fees are increasing very sporadically, and there needs to be a process for the Board of Regents and the trustees to consult with students and provide some notice,” he said. “The bill enables the creation of accountability, but whether or not that will happen can’t be said.”
The bill also requires the UC and CSU to submit annual expenditure and financial aid reports to the state Legislature for further review by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.
“As of now, the UC submits annual reports to the Legislature, but this would take it a step further,” said Raquel Morales, an advocate for the bill and formerly a UCSA board member, in an email. “The Legislature should be given reports that go beyond numbers; they need to start seeing statistics of how fee increases are impacting real students across our campuses.”
An earlier version of the bill, which required a notification process that a January Assembly appropriations committee analysis estimated would take at least 11 months, was opposed by both the UC and the CSU. The notification process in that version was estimated to cost the CSU $100,000 and the UC a one-time cost of $1,000,000 as well as ongoing costs of $500,000 to develop the notification process. The UC released a letter June 23 stating that abiding by the 11 month waiting period would be impossible, given the state’s volatile budgetary situation.
“After weeks of meetings and phone calls, both parties were able to come to an agreement on both the language and the timeline established in the legislation,” Morales said in the email. “We believe that public notice and student consultation should be of priority for the Regents when they keep passing fee increases after fee increases.”
Afsana Afzal is the lead Academics and Administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]
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