Regents vote to extend tuition surcharge

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents voted at their meeting Thursday to extend a tuition surcharge for UC students to pay off previous settlement costs the university incurred.

The extension of the $60 surcharge passed despite criticism that it was funding the costs of a settlement incurred when a court ruled the university had inappropriately raised tuition on students for the 2003-04 academic year. With the extension, the surcharge — which was first enacted in the 2007-08 school year — will now last through the 2017-18 academic year.

“The university lost a lawsuit against students and made them pay for it,” said Student Regent Jonathan Stein at the meeting.

The regents should have found an internal mechanism to pay for the costs of the lawsuits instead of putting the burden of payment on students, he said.

Students from the university’s professional schools filed class-action lawsuits against the university in 2003 and 2010, and in both cases, the court determined that the UC system raised tuition without adequately warning affected students. In total, the litigation process cost the university nearly $100 million, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

Since UC insurance did not cover the lawsuit, the university had to rely on students to fund the settlement, Klein said.

“I don’t think this is right,” said UC Regent Eddie Island. “Students are being asked to pick up the surcharge for a lawsuit with no benefit.”

When Stein and Island drew issue with extending the surcharge, UC President Mark Yudof said that students would end up paying for the lawsuits in an indirect form even without the surcharge.

“I don’t know what to say,” Yudof said. “Where would you have us take the money?”

Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president of UC business operations, lauded the regents’ decision to be candid with students about the fees.

“This is actually a hallmark of transparency, to show what it is and that it will be paid off,” Brostrom said.

While he acknowledged the funds could have come from cuts to UC programs, he said that that would have come at the expense of the quality of UC services.

According to UC Regent Richard Blum, university officials made a mistake by pursuing costly litigation and should have settled the case.

The extension will expire when the costs of the second lawsuit, Luquetta v. Regents of the University of California, are fully paid off. The first lawsuit, Kashmiri v. Regents of the University of California, is set to be paid off this school year. As per UC policy, 33 percent of the fees collected from the extension of the surcharge on professional students will go toward financial aid.

“Let’s face it, this is ugly,” Klein said. “Nobody likes this. (The university) felt strongly that we were in the right — that’s why we went through all the appeals. And guess what, we lost.”

Contact Jeremy Gordon and Libby Rainey at [email protected].