Amid pressure, UC Regents delay vote to increase tuition

Sophia Brown/Staff

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents voted to postpone the highly anticipated vote on tuition hikes amid disagreement and pushback during its board meeting Wednesday, leaving the financial fate of students entering the UC system uncertain.

The votes to increase in-state tuition by $342 and nonresident tuition by $978 were moved to March and May, respectively, after UC President Janet Napolitano urged the board to reconsider the vote at a later time. After the postponement vote, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ spoke in front of the board, supporting the tuition increase and criticizing the vote’s delay.

Christ expressed the “hardships” the delay will present for the campus, adding that indecision on budget matters means that the campus cannot properly schedule and plan next semester’s faculty and that students and families will be left guessing at tuition costs.

“Families, at the time they’re admitted to Berkeley, won’t know the cost of attendance,” Christ said. “And we will not be able to effectively recruit students from out of state if … they don’t know how much it’s going to cost.”

As part of the 2018-19 budget, the tuition increase would pay for improvements in mental health services, maintain affordability for California residents and boost educational quality. Improvements in academic services would include reductions in student-faculty ratios and increased course availability, which Christ said would address overcrowded lectures and reduced numbers of sections caused by a dearth of funding.

The tuition hike, however, would be met with increases in student financial aid from university and state financial-aid programs and would therefore not result in additional expenses for mandatory charges for UC students, according to UCOP Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom.

About 2 p.m., after the regents had begun the finance and capital strategies committee meeting, during which they were originally scheduled to vote on the tuition hike, California Gov. Jerry Brown sent a letter to the UC Regents encouraging them to “reject outright” the current proposal to increase student tuition, calling the tuition increase “premature.”

Brown said state support for the UC system has grown by $1.2 billion since 2012 and added the need for the university to reduce costs for students and families.

“I urge you to focus on reducing the system’s cost structures rather than increasing the financial burden on students,” Brown said in the letter.

Several regents, including Eloy Ortiz Oakley and Sherry Lansing, called upon the California state legislature to increase the university’s funding instead of raising tuition. Both Napolitano and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested renewed negotiations with the legislators.

“I am the first to acknowledge … that the original sin of this conversation every year is withering state funding, so we have to address that,”  Newsom said.

The regents have been considering the tuition increase since September.

The tuition hike has been a source of contention on campus and has inspired the campus student organization Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, or RISE, to create a petition opposing the proposed tuition increase.

A “Fight the Hike: Rally against Tuition Increase” was held on Sproul Plaza on Wednesday morning in response to the proposed tuition hike. The rally was co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Progressive Student Association, CalSERVE, the UC Student-Workers Union and Berkeley Citizens Action, among others.

“I want to commend the students for the way they have approached this issue in an extremely thoughtful way,” said George Kieffer, chair of the Board of Regents. “I think all of the students have just shown a much more sophisticated view of where things are.”

Contact Sophia Brown-Heidenreich and Ani Vahradyan at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to statewide student coalition Rise California as the UC Berkeley student group Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education.