SAN FRANCISCO — Expressing disgust and sadness at placing an additional burden on students and families, the UC Board of Regents voted to approve a 9.6 percent fee increase at its meeting Thursday while at the same time calling for increased efforts by the UC community to demand that the state reprioritize higher education to avoid future cuts.
With only four opposing votes, the board voted to approve the increase in systemwide tuition and fees to be implemented for the coming fall semester as part of an effort to combat a $650 million reduction in state funding.
The four regents who voted against the tuition increase were Eddie Island, Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr., George Marcus and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The increase comes on top of an 8 percent hike approved last November, bringing annual tuition and fees for undergraduate California resident students to nearly $12,200. The increase was met with strong contention from students and workers from throughout the university.
“This is a sad day for the University of California,” said UC Student Association President Claudia Magana in a statement. “Once again, the Regents have refused to consider alternative options, and chosen the easy route of placing the entire burden on students and their families.”
At the start of the meeting, student leaders from multiple UC campuses as well as concerned academic student employees gathered and implored the board to consider the welfare of the students in its consideration of additional fee increases to combat repeated state cuts.
“I definitely understand the difficult challenge (the board members) face and the financial seriousness of this financial crisis, but the solution can’t be to hoist the cost on the back of our students. It’s just not a sustainable model,” said Bahar Navab, president of UC Berkeley’s Graduate Assembly. “We can’t expect students, especially grad students, to continually take out more and more loans.”
However, not all students will be required to pay the fee increases.
Under the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, students whose families have an income of under $80,000 have their tuition covered by grants and scholarships. Additionally, those students whose families make between $80,000 and $120,000 will not pay the increases for the first year they are effective.
At the meeting, many board members — including those who had voted to approve the hike — reiterated a sense of sadness and regret at having to approve the cuts.
In addition, board members emphasized the need to have UC officials, staff, workers and students unite to fight for an increased prioritization of education in the state.
“Like most of my fellow regents, I am greatly concerned and deeply saddened that the governor of our great state as well as the legislative leaders have placed such a low priority on supporting California colleges and universities,” said Regent Bonnie Reiss at the meeting.
When the UC received a $500 million cut from the state in late March, UC President Mark Yudof said the university could absorb the cut without raising student fees but that any additional cuts would mean fee hikes throughout the system.
But when the UC received an additional $150 million cut from the state when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget into law at the end of June, all bets were off the table.
That cut to the university is also compounded by $362 million in mandatory costs — such as the university’s retirement contributions, energy costs and health costs — which have resulted in an $862 million funding challenge for the university.
The additional $150 million cut passed in the state budget brought the UC’s overall budget shortfall to just over $1 billion. The 9.6 percent fee increase together with the 8 percent fee increase passed in November will bring in an additional $265 million in revenue, bringing the current budget shortfall for the system to roughly $747 million.
At the meeting, Newsom said that by raising fees yet again, the board would not be sending a message to the state Legislature regarding its “errant ways,” stating that the UC had “failed to do that for 20-plus years.”
“Ten years in a row we did exactly what the Legislature thought we were going to do, and we’re going to do it again this year. We’re going to get them out of hot water,” he said. “We’ve become predictable, and one thing I know about predictability is continue to do what you’ve done and you get exactly what you’ve got.”
Newsom added that rather than increase fees in response to yet another cut in state funding, the UC should address the issue of state funding for higher education “head-on in a different way than we’ve done in the past.”
According to Sherry Lansing, chair of the board, despite setbacks, the battle for the UC and the state’s higher education institutions will continue.
“It’s been a very difficult day today for all of us, and today we have to also move forward … to address the Legislature and address them in a united way with Cal State… (with) the community colleges, the students — we need your help very, very much — the staff and chancellors and all of us, and we will continue this battle,” she said at the close of the meeting.