Napolitano makes her case

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: UC President Janet Napolitano’s proposal to freeze tuition for the next academic year is promising for UC students.

UC President Janet Napolitano took a bold step Wednesday at the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, proposing an undergraduate tuition freeze for the 2014-15 academic year. The tuition freeze, in addition to a number of other progressive measures announced at the meeting, show Napolitano is going to bat for students where it matters.

In her remarks to the regents, Napolitano explained the tuition freeze was a way to give the UC system time to explore a new tuition policy without putting the burden on the backs of students. Declaring that “it’s time for the university to collaboratively come up with a better (tuition-setting process),” Napolitano floated the idea of “cohort tuition,” which would guarantee that a first-semester freshman’s tuition rate wouldn’t dramatically change during his or her years as a UC student.

Although there are some drawbacks to this, namely that tuition could spike dramatically for each successive class instead of being increased more gradually for all of them, cohort tuition would be one significant step toward making financial planning easier for UC students and their families.

Accompanying the freeze proposal was a pledge to make the university a zero net energy user by 2025 and a promise to bring more transfer students from community colleges into the UC system. Napolitano also said she’s aiming for the university to “speed the translation of ideas that are developed by UC faculty, researchers and students into products and services that can help benefit all of society.”

Napolitano’s ideas address issues regarding sustainability, technology and education affordability. While ordinarily bureaucrats tend to speak in milder, more hesitant language to avoid making promises they’re afraid they can’t keep, Napolitano’s forceful policy agenda and specific language are impressive. Perhaps more importantly, they also give us a list of items to which we can hold her accountable.

While we still are somewhat apprehensive because Napolitano oversaw immigrant deportations while leading the Department of Homeland Security, she shouldn’t resign, as some have demanded.

Napolitano seems willing to prove her commitment to all UC students — documented or otherwise. Her proposals for serious reform and policy changes are evidence of this. Additionally, her experience as a seasoned and effective bureaucrat could be useful in representing student interests in Sacramento.

In spite of her problematic record, she deserves time to follow through on the promises she makes.