UC Berkeley mandatory fees to continue funding student services in fall

UC Berkeley Campus
Stephanie Li/File
Although UC Berkeley's fall semester will begin with fully online instruction, mandatory student fees will remain the same to support various student services.

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The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs announced in April through a campuswide email that mandatory student fees would not be reduced for the fall semester, regardless of the mode of instruction.

UC Berkeley’s fall semester is set to begin with remote instruction, but will incorporate in-person classes if or when public health conditions permit. During this time, student services, some of which are funded by fees, will continue to be delivered, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

“UC Berkeley student services continue to be available to students via remote options including virtual study jams, remote movie nights, ‘Coffee & Career’ video chats, online fitness and art classes, and student-led programs and activities to ensure that the term remains an enriching one for our students,” Gilmore said in an email.

Systemwide, UC campuses have allocated funds to support additional student health and safety services and returned a total of $300 million in refunds for housing and dining expenses, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan.

Doan added that remote operations have increased costs in many areas, including additional investments in video collaboration sites, online security enhancements and support for the workforce now working remotely.

“Mandatory systemwide University charges for tuition and student services have remained as UC continues to deliver instruction and student services such as registration, financial aid, and remote academic advising,” Doan said in an email.

In response to the continued student fees during the pandemic, a petition demanding a partial reimbursement from UC Berkeley was created in March. Many students who signed and shared the petition have since expressed disapproval of the decision to keep fees.

Campus student Sukhmony Brar said she would like UC Berkeley to be more “transparent” about how fees will be used and to direct funds to financially support essential food and health services, such as the Berkeley Student Food Collective.

“When campus closed in March, current and incoming students not only lost access to in-person classes but also the privilege of being part of a vibrant campus community,” Brar said in an email. “This is not a loss that can simply be compensated for by funneling money into student services such as mental health.”

This sentiment was echoed by campus student Ibrahim Khan, who said the refusal to reduce undergraduate tuition shows a “disconnect” between students and administration. He added that students deserve a “detailed and accessible explanation” of what their payments fund.

Although UC Berkeley will bill student fees for fall, the UC Office of the President recently provided a framework to evaluate campus fees charged for the spring 2020 term and to issue refunds where appropriate, according to Doan.

“Though the delivery method is different, this foundation for student learning remains the same,” Doan said in the email. “We will continue to listen to the concerns of our students, faculty and staff as we all work together to ensure a safe and effective learning environment.”

Contact Zoe Chen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zoe_chen820.