UC Board of Regents discusses tuition, freshman pipeline

Sunny Shen/Staff

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At Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meetings, tuition and fee plans, the freshman pipeline and seismic safety were discussed, among other topics pertaining to the student experience.

While the regents were previously scheduled to vote on a new tuition and fee plan during the board meeting, board chair John Pérez changed the item to a discussion Tuesday after students raised concerns over the item’s timing.

“We as student leaders are entitled to significant advanced warning of tuition increases,” said Varsha Sarveshwar, UC Student Association, or UCSA, president and ASUC External Affairs vice president, at the meeting. “We were never explicitly informed that a five-year tuition model was being considered.”

While UC President Janet Napolitano said California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget — which allocates a 5% increase to UC funding during fiscal year 2021 — is a step in the right direction, she also stated that it will not be enough to cover the UC system’s core operating costs.

The board considered two models for tuition and fees. The first model proposes increasing tuition, the Student Services Fee and nonresident tuition by California’s inflation rate. The second plan implements a cohort-based model, in which tuition and fees vary between each incoming class of students but remain stable during a student’s college career.

The approved plan would be implemented starting in the next academic year and remain in effect through the 2024-25 academic year.

Both plans would increase financial aid funding because one-third of tuition and Student Services Fee dollars are used for financial aid. According to David Alcocer, associate vice president of budget analysis and planning for the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, both plans provide similar amounts of resources.

Sarveshwar said a tuition increase might adversely affect student advocacy.

“I am deeply concerned about the impact of these five-year proposals on student advocacy,” Sarveshwar said at the meeting. “If you lock in tuition increases, it makes students far less likely to engage in advocacy.”

Following discussion of the various models, Regent Richard Sherman stated that he felt the UC system’s financial system is “broken.” He added that because the UC system cannot afford what it has, growing the UC brand will exacerbate the quality of student life.

According to Pérez, the cohort and universal tuition models differ largely in predictability and level of stress for students and their families. Pérez said he would only support an increase that establishes a fixed tuition for current UC students.

“We owe it to them to guarantee them what their cost is the day they decide to come to our schools,” Pérez said at the meeting. “I have never been comfortable; I am still not comfortable with passing an increase on current students.”

Later in the day, members of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee discussed various aspects of the freshman pipeline to attending UC schools, as well as the impact of graduate education on the state economy.

In order to be eligible for admission to the UC system, high school students must complete a series of curricular requirements, referred to as “A-G.” Several regents noted that many California high schools do not offer a selection of courses that meet the A-G requirements.

Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges system, stated that while some high school students do not fulfill all of the requirements for UC eligibility, many go on to attend community college first before transferring to a four-year university.

“We’re equating students who don’t have access to A-G as not being ‘college ready,’” Ortiz Oakley said at the meeting. “We have to be careful of that. They are not UC eligible — that doesn’t mean that they’re not college ready.”

In an effort to mitigate unequal access to A-G coursework, UCOP has implemented UC Scout, an educational initiative enabling students to take A-G accredited courses online. During the 2017-18 academic year, over 3,000 students and teachers participated in UC Scout courses, according to an agenda item.

The committee also discussed the impact of UC graduate education on California’s economy. Michael Brown, UCOP provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, noted that degree completion for graduate students typically relies upon creating an environment that encourages students to stay.

“We pay for doctoral students to come,” Brown said at the meeting. “If we don’t have the resources to make their living here conducive to the education we’re trying to offer, it’s a false promise.”

During the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting, the regents discussed seismic safety and student housing. Because previous committees went overtime, many agenda items were passed with little discussion or deferred to a later date.

After the committee’s action items were approved, the regents heard a presentation on the current state of the university’s seismic safety initiative. Of the 6,000 buildings in the university system, 2,000 have been reviewed so far, only half of which were found to be at or above the university’s seismic safety standards.

Following the presentation on seismic safety, Aidan Arasasingham, the UCSA government relations committee chair, spoke in support of new affordable housing initiatives.

“While the capital strategies discussed by this committee can often be distilled to the capital tactics of individual projects, I encourage you all to think bolder, broader and bigger about how capital strategy can be leveraged for the public interest,” Arasasingham said at the meeting.

Contact The Daily Californian News Staff at [email protected]. Maya Akkaraju, Alexandra Feldman, Maxine Mouly and Revati Thatte contributed to this report.