UC Riverside students propose alternative UC student contribution plan

With declining state funding driving University of California tuition higher and higher in recent years, a group of students at UC Riverside is proposing an alternative student contribution plan that would allow students to pay for their education once they have a steady, post-graduation income.

The plan, called the UC Student Investment Proposal, would have students cease payments to the university and instead have them pay a percentage of their income after graduating and entering a career for the next 20 years, interest-free. The group behind the proposal, called Fix UC, is composed of members from the editorial board of UC Riverside’s student newspaper, The Highlander, and other student leaders at the Riverside campus.

UC Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom and UC Vice President for Budget and Capital Resources Patrick Lenz will meet with students when they are at the Riverside campus for next week’s UC Board of Regents meeting to discuss the proposal, according to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel.

“We’re open to hearing and exploring all ideas,” Montiel said in an email.

Montiel added that the discussion is not on the agenda for the meeting.

Fix UC President and Highlander Editor-in-Chief Chris LoCascio said the idea came about last spring during the state’s budget crisis.

“As a member of editorial board for the Highlander we ultimately called for new ideas — an out-of-the box solution that attempted to address some of the root problems with funding for the UC,” he said. “We were just kind of dissatisfied with a lack of ideas and lack of action with everyone involved in the UC.”

UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich presented a similar idea in remarks to the UC Commission on the Future in 2010, according to Montiel.

Reich said in an email that the plan he proposed would require students to pay a fixed percentage of their full-time earnings for 10 years to finance their education. Under Reich’s plan, those with higher-income occupations would effectively subsidize the educational costs of those with lower-income occupations.“I have informally proposed this to the UC system, but as far as I know the idea hasn’t been taken up,” he said in the email. “It doesn’t sound as if Fix UC is based on the same idea.”

LoCascio said the proposal encourages a lifelong relationship with the university.

“Having the UC backing you in the search for your career is really something you can’t put a price on,” he said.

The proposal also suggests that the UC change the current Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan to implement Fix UC’s plan. Under the proposal, the university’s financial aid program would also cease to exist entirely, and its funds would be dedicated elsewhere.

Although it is unclear whether the group will present its ideas at the upcoming board meeting, LoCascio said Fix UC’s role there is “still in development.”

“Whether or not this is something the regents decide to explore or implement I can’t say,” he said. “But regardless, I feel like this is extremely important and will get people to start to think about education in new ways.”

Jessica Rossoni of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Damian Ortellado is the lead higher education reporter.