After the 2020-21 California budget proposal is released in January, the UC Board of Regents will vote on a flat-rate tuition model that has already garnered much criticism.
Past tuition increases have been influenced by the Consumer Price Index. In the proposed model, or the cohort-based tuition model, tuition will remain fixed for all returning UC system students, and they will pay the same tuition as they did their first year. Tuition hikes will be reserved for incoming UC system students, however.
“It’s a far smaller group of students paying the tuition increase,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar. “We’re going to have to raise it a little higher than inflation.”
According to a discussion item from July’s UC regents meeting, the cohort-based model intends to ensure fee changes are predictable for students, families and the UC system. The item claims that stable tuition revenue allows UC campuses to form long-term plans while enabling students to budget more effectively.
Revenue gained from increasing undergraduate tuition for incoming classes will help fund need-based financial assistance, according to University of California Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Sarah McBride. She added that 33% of the revenue gain, along with the Cal Grant program, would cover tuition fees for over half of California residents.
The new model has garnered criticism from the Berkeley Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review, or CSF, however.
“My team has serious concerns regarding the Cohort-Based Tuition Model, specifically with respect to its effects on administrative costs, the actual cost of tuition and fees, and its impact on student government and advocacy,” said Yongqi Gan, CSF co-chair, in an email. “Critically, the regents may adopt this model without actually determining the tuition rates until much later.”
CSF has criticized the model, arguing that it does not take fluctuations in economic conditions and state funding into account. The committee also argues that changing the tuition model poses administrative challenges.
Additionally, CSF said the proposal lacks restrictions on long-term tuition hikes, as there are no set charging limits. CSF also claims that undisclosed administrative costs will both burden incoming students and challenge UCOP’s aim of “simplicity in design.”
Finally, CSF noted that the tuition model change could impact student advocacy, as students may be less likely to rally against tuition changes if they only impact the incoming class.
Although the University of California Student Association has not taken a stance on the proposed tuition change, Sarveshwar said it has been historically opposed to tuition hikes.
Sarveshwar also predicts that a cohort-based model will be a challenge to implement.
“Significant changes to the way the algorithms work for charging tuition require a whole new appeal procedure. … quite possibly (requiring) changes in state legislation,” Sarveshwar said.
A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Berkeley Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review as the Berkeley Committee on Student Fees.