UC students, administrators come to preliminary agreement on tuition hike policy

Kenneth Berling/Staff
UC Berkeley students wait outside the Financial Aid Office in Sproul Hall.

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Three years after the passage of a state Assembly bill designed to promote communication between public universities and students regarding tuition and fee hikes, an agreement has been reached within the University of California to institutionalize dialogue.

A meeting between the UC Student Association and the UC Office of the President on Tuesday resulted in a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that lays out guidelines for improving student awareness of tuition increases being considered by the UC Board of Regents.

The agreement proposes similar ideas to those outlined in Assembly Bill 970, a law passed by the California State Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 that encouraged the state’s public universities to give notice and enact student consultation procedures prior to any decisions regarding systemwide tuition or fee increases.

Specifically, AB 970 — termed the “Working Families Student Fee Transparency and Accountability Act” — called for a strict definition of “consultations” as meetings between university governing bodies and students in which the universities provide clear justifications for potential tuition hikes, and instructed universities to consult with students before such hikes are proposed.

“The process of increasing tuition and fees wasn’t democratic,” said Kevin Sabo, president of the UC Student Association.

Despite being passed and signed by Brown, the bill never took effect in the UC system, according to Sabo, who added that because the university is constitutionally autonomous, the bill would only become effective were it enacted by the UC regents.

Three years later, however, many of the ideas proposed in AB 970 may now be implemented. According to Sabo, who was involved in the creation of the MOU, the definition of consultations will become policy, along with providing a notice 30 days before any potential tuition or fee increases are proposed by the university, among other initiatives.

While discussions are yet to come, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the university welcomes consulting with students on issues that affect them and the larger UC community.

“There’s certainly more room for transparency and discussion (with the Board of Regents),” said Avi Oved, the UC student regent and a student at UCLA. “When you include the students in the conversation … it lends credibility to the decisions being made.”

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, a former state Assembly member who voted for AB 970 in 2012, also expressed support for greater transparency surrounding tuition increases, likening the situation to his experience as a small business owner.

“You need to talk to your customers before you raise your prices,” DeSaulnier said. “It’s better for everyone if you do it ahead of time rather than after.”

Sabo will present the MOU to the UC Student Association Board of Directors this weekend for deliberation. He is optimistic about how it will respond.

“The board is committed in (its) resolve to making sure we get this in place,” Sabo said.

Contact Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz at [email protected].