The university needs a stable source of funding and has given the state a clear choice: increase state funding to the UC system, or student tuition goes up. Many have directed their anger at either the university or the state in the wake of the university’s new tuition proposal. But we believe the question at hand is not who should be blamed, but rather how do we, as residents of California and UC students, perceive the University of California.
On Thursday, the university announced a plan to raise tuition and fees by up to 5 percent each year for the next five years, dependent on receiving at least 4 percent increases in funding from the state. This policy conflicts with Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for the university, which promises to give the university a 4 percent increase in state funding as long as tuition is not raised. However, due to a shortage of funds, the university plans on increasing tuition and fees unless there is about a 7.3 percent increase in its state funding.
This decision was made in the absence of many of this year’s student leaders, yet will result in another tuition increase affecting students attending every UC campus. While the student regent has been aware of this policy’s development for about a year, the current student regent designate, many members of the University of California Student Association and other student leaders were not informed of the policy until soon before it was publicly announced. Regardless of whether they think policy is an appropriate solution, students must be a part of this decision-making process, especially when our tuition is at stake.
The university is making a bet: It is betting students are going to be sufficiently angered by this development to the point that they will rally and direct their frustration at the state legislature. It is betting state officials will care about hikes in student tuition and fees enough to support increases in state funding to the university. But it is mostly betting that Californians care about the fact that funding for public higher education in our state is spiraling downward.
This is not simply a battle over increases in tuition; it is a battle over the identity of the University of California. The lack of support from taxpayers is costing the university its Californian identity. With state funding and public support decreasing, the University of California loses just that: being the university of California.
It is not enough that our university is cheaper than many private schools. The fact remains that UC tuition was almost nonexistent in the 1960s, and it has more than doubled in the past decade. We need to take ownership of our university. The administration’s policy is based on the assumption that people — Californians, the state, students, faculty, alumni — care enough to effect change. Therefore we are not faced with a question of policy but one of perception: How do you see the University of California?