When the state of California fails to sufficiently fund public universities, the UC system turns to nonresident students as a source of revenue. This trend has made the university increasingly inaccessible to out-of-state students who hope to attend UC institutions.
In 2017, the UC Board of Regents approved a $1,332 increase in nonresident tuition. In 2018, it was raised by another 3.5 percent. And this year, a tuition increase of 2.6 percent has been approved for nonresident students.
The most recent hike will generate $28.9 million in revenue for UC campuses. Of this, only $2.9 million — 10 percent — will go toward increasing financial aid for out-of-state students. That is simply insubstantial financial assistance.
Aid offered to out-of-state students is already minimal, and tuition increases only further exacerbate the problem of affordability. The UC system cannot continue to use its students to make up for budget deficits resulting from insufficient state funding — especially since one of the most significant needs of UC students is increased financial aid.
Part of the UC’s planned budget for 2019-20 is to be designated to new resources to help students with the cost of attendance and for “expanding access for California resident students.” But so far, these are just vague proposals with no tangible plans publicly available. There needs to be a more specific and accessible plan that includes substantial increases in financial aid assistance for all students in order to alleviate the impacts of the tuition hike.
UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan claimed that the tuition increase would not affect out-of-state students’ progress toward graduation or their ability to enroll because most nonresident students have higher median family incomes. But this increase isn’t happening in isolation. It may not seem like a large amount by itself, but in conjunction with the tuition raises over the past three years, the cost becomes more substantial.
Continuing on this track of increasing out-of-state tuition will ensure that wealthy students become the only nonresident students who can easily access a UC education. Tuition hikes such as these essentially punish nonresident students from low-income backgrounds, forcing them to borrow and accept larger loans while offering them virtually no financial aid.
Students’ access to affordable education should not be threatened because the state is not dedicating enough money to the UC system. The UC Board of Regents and UC Office of the President need to be working harder to find solutions to budget deficits that do not include increasing the cost of attendance. Though there have been recent increases in state funding, UC must continue to actively lobby for more government funding for public universities.
California has one of the best public university systems in the country. But that will mean nothing if students can’t afford to attend UC schools.