The UC Board of Regents’ proposed nonresident tuition hike undermines equity goals

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: Nonresidents diversify the university community, and raising their tuition even more would merely exacerbate their financial struggles

Worried students at Sproul Plaza looking up at cloud that reads "Tuition Hikes"
Emily Bi/Staff

Last week, the UC Board of Regents made a surprising announcement: The board decided not to raise in-state tuition for the upcoming academic year. And while that’s certainly promising, an item on the agenda for this week’s regents meeting put a damper on students’ celebrations.

This Wednesday, the regents will consider implementing both an increase in tuition for nonresident students and a cap on their enrollment. Although the UC system is a public university that should primarily serve local students, Wednesday’s proposals would not only harm existing students but would also completely contradict the university’s mission statement of promoting educational equity.

The proposed hike will increase nonresident tuition by 2.6 percent for the 2019-20 academic year. The regents have justified this by stating that nonresident students “generally come from families with greater financial resources compared to California families.” But this claim merely feeds into the false perception that all nonresident students are wealthy.

California’s public higher education institutions are some of the best in the nation. Not all students, however, are lucky enough to live in states with such strong public education systems, and so many of these students choose to attend schools such as the University of California.

The fact is, nonresident students have their own financial burdens to attend this world-renowned university system. Many out-of-state students apply for financial aid just as California students do, and international students often struggle to pay tuition that is nearly three times the cost of in-state tuition. It’s time to eliminate this assumption that all nonresident students can afford to pay more.

Nonresident students bring diversity to UC campuses — a richness that would be lost if the regents approve Wednesday’s motion. Raising nonresident tuition even more would increase the already hefty financial burden on out-of-state and international students and prevent socioeconomically diverse individuals from being able to afford a UC education. Why should these students be forced into extreme debt to attend the schools they choose?

The cost of funding the UC system shouldn’t fall on any of the university’s students — regardless of residency. It’s undeniable that the UC faces its own funding challenges, but it can’t solve its financial hardships by exacerbating those of its students when students are the very people the university should be uplifting.

Unfortunately, potential increases to nonresident tuition usually aren’t met with as much outrage as threats to raise resident tuition. Students shouldn’t mobilize only if a proposed tuition hike impacts them — all tuition hikes threaten the UC student experience.

So to the regents, consider this: If you vote yes on Wednesday, you’ll be going against the very values of diversity and equity that the UC system stands for.

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