UC regents’ proposed tuition hike threatens students

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: The UC Board of Regents and state government must stop using students as pawns in their fight over money

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Kelly Baird/Staff

On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents postponed voting on a controversial tuition hike until March and May for in-state and nonresident tuition, respectively. When the board reconvenes, the regents should end discussion about an increase once and for all and vote no.

After the six-year tuition freeze ended last year, the regents approved raising tuition by 2.5 percent for the 2017-18 academic year. Now, another hike is on the table. This proposal comes after the UC has raised tuition by more than 300 percent over the last 15 years.

Despite years of skyrocketing tuition, many still found a way to justify the hikes. The Los Angeles Times editorial board argued that tuition hikes are necessary to provide the high-quality education that is the hallmark of the UC system. In a statement released to the campus community, Chancellor Carol Christ similarly expressed the inevitability of and urgent need for a tuition hike.

For most of its history, the UC was tuition-free. Instead of paying pathetic lip service to the pessimistic narrative that tuition hikes are inevitable, officials like Christ should call out the state’s absurd demand for more in-state enrollment with small increases in state funding.

“That’s it,” Brown said to the Sacramento Bee about his proposed funding allocation to the UC in his 2018-19 budget. “They’re not going to get any more. They’ve got to manage.”

Given these comments, when Brown swoops in to make grand statements against tuition hikes, it rings completely hollow. Students don’t need politicians as fake allies, and if Brown believes tuition hikes aren’t the way to address the UC’s cash problem, there’s an easy way he can help — give the UC more money (just like he agreed to).

Just because the UC says the hike would only affect students coming from families with incomes more than $165,000 doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. The sticker shock alone of a higher cost of attendance could be enough to turn away California’s high-achieving low-income students. And with federal financial aid subject to the whims of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump, it’s more important than ever that the UC prioritizes accessibility.

Now that the vote has been postponed, students have time to organize and circulate petitions, and Napolitano has time to persuade Brown to increase funding for the UC. But the delay puts many vulnerable students in an uncertain situation about their future — how can they register for another semester when they don’t even know if they can afford it?

It’s true that the UC needs to get smarter about spending and make cuts to its administrative bloat. But in the meanwhile, students shouldn’t be penalized for this ongoing brawl between the state and the university and are tired of repeatedly being used as pawns in this ridiculous political game.

It’s time the regents learned from their own students — who have been consistently protesting potential tuition hikes and prompted the regents to postpone the vote — and fight for their right to state funding.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.