Our system of higher education has asked much of students lately, mostly in the form of frequent fee hikes and budget cuts. Many have come out against these hikes and cuts through participation in protests across the state, in which riot batons, pepper spray and multiple arrests have fallen on them.
It becomes questionable, then, when University of California president Mark Yudof requests help in lobbying money for the UC. In an email sent May 9, Yudof requested help from “UC Santa Cruz friend[s]” to push Gov. Jerry Brown to include additional funding to the UC in his coming tax plan up for vote in November. Brown’s plan, released Monday, shows that he is facing a near $16 billion gap in the California state budget to fix.
“We need to send a strong message to the state’s political leaders to spare UC from cuts in the 2012–13 budget and to recommit to making higher education a state priority,” Yudof said.
Asking students for help can be difficult when those asking have cut students’ resources and raising fees so often. In fall 2009, the UC Board of Regents approved a 32 percent increase in fees. A subsequent 8 percent hike passed that November. Another 9.6 percent fee increase passed July 14, 2011. Now, the board is considering an additional 6 percent increase this coming fall, if Brown does not increase funding by $125 million.
The regents have suggested the budget crisis was caused by lessened state support for the UC. While lessening support undoubtedly plays a major role in our budgetary deficit, leaders of the UC have continued plunging forward with larger construction projects and larger still administrator salaries. This is why the regents must continue looking for alternative solutions to our budgetary crisis. Raising student fees, cutting worker’s benefits and admitting more students alone cannot solve our budget crisis.
The regents should take into serious consideration the Fix UC plan, a student investment proposal developed by the editorial board of UC Riverside’s newspaper, The Highlander. Fix UC proposes that students pay fees through a percentage of their yearly income after graduation instead of a yearly tuition-based system.
If the budget crisis is dire enough that regents must ask for assistance, we are left to wonder why administrators are not cutting their own salaries. According to an article in the daily web magazine Slate, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi makes $400,000, as base salary.
In November of last year, 10 university administrators and lawyers saw salaries raised by as much as 21.9 percent, according to an article by The Bay Citizen. The UC president himself brings in a salary of $540,000 a year — a good deal more than President Obama earns from his seat in the Oval Office.
While asking students to get involved in their own university’s issues is great, the regents must find solutions other than state support. They also cannot continue raising tuition, a detriment not only to students of low-income families but to the UC Master Plan, which by design allows students of all backgrounds access to higher education.