UCSA board chair says new UC policy could mean tuition increases if ratified

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The UC Board of Regents is set to consider a new tuition increase policy at its November meeting that will link future tuition increases to levels of state funding for the UC budget, according to the chair of the University of California Student Association.

According to Kevin Sabo, UC Berkeley student and UCSA board chair, UC President Janet Napolitano will introduce the policy to the regents at their meeting. The policy, should it be ratified, will increase tuition by a certain number of percentage points in relation to how much the state funds the University of California, starting 2015-2016. Sabo and other student leaders were briefed on the proposed policy by Napolitano and other university officials at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Tuition increases will not be more than 5 percent, he said. If current tuition increases by 5 percent, that would raise in-state tuition and fees to about $12,804 and out-of-state tuition and fees to about $36,800.

Tuition and fees have been frozen at 2011-12 levels — about 12,192 for in-state students and about $35,000 tuition for out-of-state students —  after a nearly 20 percent increase in January 2010. The tuition increases spurred widespread student backlash across the UC system.

The UC Office of the President declined to comment for this article. Nathan Brostrom, the UC chief financial officer, will brief the media Thursday on the university’s proposed budget for the 2015-16 academic year.

In practice, Sabo described the policy as increasing tuition if the legislature fails to meet a certain level of funding, which corresponds with a specific numeric increase. The only way tuition would not increase would be if the legislature meets that need, although the number is not specified.

He described it as the university “putting a gun” to students to call for more state funding.

“You’re literally using students as hostages,” he said. “It makes the students focus on the legislature and the governor.”

In an interview with The Guardian, UC San Diego’s student newspaper, Regent George Kieffer said it was difficult to “foresee a healthy future without building tuition in some way.”

Currently, the university faces a $125 million budget shortfall, in part due to decreasing state support. Whereas in 1990, the state funded 78 percent of the total cost of education per student, the state currently covers 39 percent of student education costs.

At their September board meeting, the regents addressed the budget shortfall. Though students present at the meeting cautioned the regents against raising tuition, the issue remained in the background of the discussion — a summary document stated that “the remaining support needed to fund the budget plan will likely require either additional State funds or increases in mandatory systemwide tuition and fees.”

Sabo expressed frustration that student leaders were only given 14 days notice before Napolitano is set to present this policy to the regents. He said with more time, students may have been able to present alternatives. The UCSA intends to address the issue at its board meeting Saturday.

The next UC Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19 and 20 at UCSF Mission Bay.

“It’s going to need work to build more good faith on both sides, between the UC and the state,” Sabo said. “No matter who’s blaming whom, the students are losing out.”

View the plan and FAQ sheet released by UCOP:

Sophie Ho is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @sophanho.