Regents approve $7,500 supplementary fee for UC Berkeley journalism school

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At their Nov. 20 meeting, the UC Board of Regents approved the implementation of an annual supplemental fee of $7,500 on top of the current UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism basic tuition.

The increase comes in the form of a Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition, which are fees that graduate students pay in addition to their basic tuition. The fee would bring in more than $1 million annually and would go directly to the journalism school, along with at least 33 percent going to financial aid, according to Edward Wasserman, dean of the journalism school.

Out of the 17 professional degree programs on campus, all but the College of Environmental Design have proposed fee increases for 2015-16. As the price of professional degrees increases across campus, a systemwide increase policy that includes undergraduate tuition rates was also approved by the regents at their November meeting.

“I find it really sad,” said Melissa Bosworth, a first-year graduate student at the journalism school. “I’m afraid that the fee hikes of the journalism school are going to affect the socioeconomic diversity at the school.”

This marks the first year that the journalism school, along with the Graduate School of Education, has proposed supplemental tuition.

“I see this as something that’s very frightening and terrifying,” said Ted Andersen, a first-year graduate student, noting that some journalists face higher debt leaving journalism school than the salaries they are offered on the market.

Andersen, along with other first-year graduate students at the journalism school, will not be affected by the fee next year. Revenue from the fee will begin to be collected from the class that enters next fall, but only for their second year.

The journalism school faculty voted prior to the regents meeting on two points: whether to implement the fee and what the amount would be. The first vote resulted in 12 in favor and two opposed; the second vote resulted in six faculty members voting for a fee of $4,000 or less and eight voting for $7,500.

Wasserman referred to the fee as “an unavoidable step toward ensuring the School’s financial future,” in an email sent out to the journalism school community after the regents’ vote.

Professor Cynthia Gorney, who reluctantly voted for a fee, said the closest journalism graduate program to UC Berkeley’s is the program offered at Columbia University, which currently charges $53,980 in tuition for its 10-month program.

She noted that many prospective students in the past who have been accepted to both Columbia and UC Berkeley for journalism programs chose the latter for its more affordable tuition.

“I understand the dean’s motivations; I disagree (with them),” said Gorney. “I wish there was another way we could do this.”

Jean Lee covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @missjeanlee.

A previous version of this article said that Cynthia Gorney voted for the new fee. In fact, she voted for a fee, but one that would be low during the first year.

A previous version of this article also stated that Melissa Bosworth and Ted Andersen are second-year graduate students at the journalism school. In fact, they are first-year graduate students.