UC regents to vote on financial sustainability plan, discuss potential tuition increases

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The UC Board of Regents will convene at its fall meeting Wednesday and Thursday at UCSF Mission Bay to vote on a new three-year financial sustainability plan and potentially discuss university tuition increases.

If approved, the three-year financial sustainability plan will call upon the university to explore strategies for increasing the number of students that it serves, according to the meeting agenda. The plan projects an increase of 2,500 California resident undergraduate students per year during the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

Funding for this plan is provided in part by the state Budget Acts of 2015 and 2016, which, together, allocated $43.5 million to enrollment growth support. The proposed plan would result in five percent increases in nonresident tuition and in the Student Services Fee.

“I think that we really need to have a conversation, philosophically, about how we want to fund this institution,” said Ralph Washington Jr., president of the University of California Student Association, or UCSA. “Ideally, any financial sustainability plan will recognize or acknowledge the impact it will have on student diversity and student life.”

An agreement between UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown to freeze tuition for two years is set to expire at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. A statement by UC Office of the President spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez did not rule out the possibility of tuition increases as a topic of discussion during this week’s meetings.

Also on the agenda for Wednesday is an action item recommending amendments to regents policy after a recent release of audio in which UC Regent Norman Pattiz was recorded asking a female colleague whether he could hold her breasts.

If validated, these amendments will hold regents accountable for violating UC sexual misconduct policy or standards of ethical conduct even if not in an official regents capacity. The amendment would also require that all board members take the university’s sexual harassment prevention training program upon being appointed and biannually thereafter.

A preliminary budget discussion Wednesday will focus on the university’s expenditure plan and its priorities in terms of maintaining academic quality and various cost increases, according to Vazquez. The board will not be asked to vote on a final budget until January.

Joanne Yi, a volunteer for the ASUC Campus Organizing Corps, said she expects the regents to eventually approve tuition increases and believes that in the post-election environment, they are a matter of health and safety for students.

“In a situation in which 48 percent (of undergraduate students) experience food insecurity, the hikes are going to hit certain communities the hardest — undocumented students and other historically marginalized communities,” Yi said.

Washington Jr. added that as a result of AB 970, the UCOP signed a memorandum of understanding to involve UCSA in future conversations about increases in tuition.

“We need to think about what it demonstrates, if we’re effectively putting a price on what is supposed to be a priceless experience,” he said.

The regents will also discuss ongoing court cases and updates on state audits of the university, among other items.

Harini Shyamsundar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.