Democratic state Senate leaders offer UC funding plan to avoid tuition increases

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In the wake of the UC Board of Regents vote to pass a tuition increase policy last month, Democratic state Senate leaders introduced a bill Tuesday that aims to avoid tuition increases by providing more state funding and increasing out-of-state tuition.

Senate Bill 15, known colloquially as “A Plan for Higher Education in California,” would funnel $75 million to both University of California and California State University schools. The bill was written and proposed by senators Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.

Under the proposed bill, students who are currently receiving the Middle Class Scholarship — for undergraduate students with household incomes up to $150,000 — would not be affected, but new students would not be able to obtain the scholarship.

Additionally, the proposed bill would raise out-of-state tuition and fees for the UC system by 17 percent. Such an increase would bring out-of-state tuition and fees to about $42,000 in the 2015-16 school year alone.

The regents’ plan will increase tuition by up to 5 percent each year over the next five years on top of current state funding increases. The tuition increases can be partially or totally eliminated if the state provides more funding. Alternatively, Gov. Jerry Brown planned to increase state funding by 4 percent annually if UC tuition remained frozen.

“The bill introduced … is a promising first step toward making sure that public higher education benefits Californians today and for generations to come, and we look forward to working with Senate Democrats and other elected officials to secure the state funding essential to this end,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in a statement.

Opponents of the bill note that it would put a heavier strain on students who are affected by the Middle Class Scholarship, as well as out-of-state and international students.

“We also don’t have a guarantee that this funding will be sustained over the years, so I worry about eliminating the Middle Class Scholarship now and then having to deal with an extra crunch three or four years down the line,” said student regent Sadia Saifuddin in an email.

For ASUC Vice President of External Affairs Caitlin Quinn, increasing out-of-state tuition would make the student population “remarkably less diverse socioeconomically and probably racially.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to (out-of-state) students,” said Kevin Sabo, a UC Berkeley student and the ASUC director of legislative affairs. “It makes them even bigger golden geese.”

Sabo said that various political figures have proposed alternatives to the regents’ plan but that a single roundtable discussion would be more beneficial in achieving a conclusive plan.

Students from various UC campuses have been protesting the regents’ approval of the tuition increase policy, with sit-ins and occupations occurring at the UC Berkeley campus.

Contact Adrienne Shih at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.