UC students could face new round of fee hikes

Student fees may rise 6 percent unless state funding is increased. Double digit fee increase could come if November tax initiative fails

Taryn Erhardt/File
Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, and Sherry Lansing, Chairman of the Board of Regents converse at the September 2011 regents meeting.

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UC students could see their tuition rise significantly if state funding does not increase and Gov. Jerry Brown’s November tax initiative fails, according to a newly released UC proposal to be discussed at next week’s UC Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento.

UC administrators say they would have to raise mandatory systemwide fees by 6 percent at their July meeting unless Brown allocates $125 million in additional funding to the university when he releases an updated state budget Monday.

Beyond that, UC students could face double-digit tuition increases in the fall if voters reject Brown’s fall tax-initiative and the UC is cut $200 million in the middle of the fiscal year.

The proposal comes as the board heads to the state capitol for their bimonthly meeting, hoping to drum up political support for the university ahead of the volatile summer budgeting process.

UC officials say that without tuition increases or increased funding from the state, the university will have to lay off workers, raise tuition and cut academic programs.  “The campuses are adamant that absorbing further cuts would mean ushering in a new era at UC — that of irreversible decline,” the report to the board states.

“The message that we are trying to get out is that the UC has been cut enough and now it is time to begin reinvesting in higher education,” said UC spokesperson Steve Montiel.

The financial outlook for the UC and the state, however, is not great. The tax revenue projections last year’s budget depended on have not materialized in the last few months, and Gov. Brown has promised more cuts.

And though student leaders acknowledge the university needs money, many have taken issue with the nature of the proposed 6 percent fee increase, which would raise tuition for in-state undergraduates by approximately $731. If the fee increase goes through, it will mean the university’s systemwide fees will have increased 95 percent in only five years, according to the report.

“I find it deeply problematic that they are holding students hostage,” said UC Student Regent-designate Jonathan Stein, who will begin his voting term at July’s meeting. “I reject the idea that we are now in this binary where we either get state money or we raise fees.”

The current student regent, Alfredo Mireles, Jr., said that while the UC needs funds to sustain itself, he wished it could look elsewhere for funding before turning to students.

“We need the money, but I don’t think it should come from students. It should come from Sacramento or we should find some internal ways to find another $100 million from students,” he said.

The summer fee increase would be necessary to make up for $326 million in cost increases set to hit the university in the next fiscal year, including millions for enrollment growth and retiree costs.

Some of the costs will be absorbed by the UC Office of the President and the systemwide efficiency initiatives. The fee increase or a “buy-out” by the state would help, but the university would still be left with a $139 million shortfall to be filled by individual campuses.

Montiel added that the university’s senior leadership has been meeting with state officials including Brown to hash out a multi-year funding plan that provides the university with more stable finances.

Until then, UC Regents, administrators and students will go to Sacramento next week to lobby for increased funding with the intention that the threats to the university’s quality will increase political and financial support.

“The failure to secure sufficient support for academic programs could have an unquantifiable impact on UC’s well-deserved reputation as the world’s finest public research higher education system,” the Regents’ propsal states.