Senate committee approves bill to lower tuition for California residents, possibly increase fees for nonresidents

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The California Senate Education Committee approved a bill Wednesday that aims to eliminate the need for planned tuition hikes for all students, but could lead to a larger tuition increase for out-of-state students.

While the bill addresses issues of affordability, accessibility and timely completion of degree programs, there is a dispute as to whether the bill preserves the interests of out-of-state students, considering one of the possible sources of funding is a 17 percent tuition increase for nonresident UC students. The bill will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The bill — introduced by California senators Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; Marty Block, D-San Diego; and Carol Liu, D-Glendale — intends to implement change by expanding UC and CSU grants, course offerings and other student services, as well as increasing CSU enrollment. It also intends to remove the 5 percent tuition increase planned for the 2015-16 school year, which was passed by the UC Board of Regents in November.

The University of California has taken a position of “support in concept” on the bill, according to a UC spokesperson. In a letter to Block, Steve Juarez, associate vice president and director of the UC Office of the President, added that the aims of the bill mirror many of the priorities included in the university’s 2015-16 budget.

“This is the type of bold policy California needs to turn around our system of higher education to ensure more students can go to college, graduate and meet our workforce and economic needs,” said Michele Siquerios, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, in a press release.

The bill identifies the funding sources for the $342 million needed to implement the plan for the 2015-16 year as increased General Fund investment, a reallocation of funds from the Middle Class Scholarship program and an increase in UC nonresident tuition by about $4,000 annually.

“By instituting such high tuition increases for out-of-state students, we would lose out on a large amount of potential,” said Kerida Moates, Berkeley College Republicans internal vice president.

In his letter to Block, Perez brought up concerns similar to Moates’s. Though the office showed its support, Perez relayed a few reservations, adding that because the cost of living at some UC campuses is a significant factor for many students, large increases in tuition could make the University of California less desirable for these students.

Additionally, because nonresident tuition provides an important source of revenue for the campuses, a potential decrease in enrollment of nonresidents could affect all students.

“(I) don’t think in any case students should be paying a greater share of UC finances,” said Kevin Sabo, chair of the Board of Directors for the UC Student Association.

Contact Kate Wolffe at [email protected].