Next week, the UC Board of Regents will be meeting at UC San Francisco Mission Bay. On their agenda is to talk about increasing student fees anywhere from 2 to 7 percent.
While these numbers may seem minor compared to the larger hikes made in the past, student fees at the University of California have already close to doubled since 2001.
Students are and have been paying too much for education every since public funds dwindled at the onset of Proposition 13 in 1978. If anything, the Regents should be discussing a decrease in tuition at UC campuses.
The discussion next week follows the recent state budget cuts proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Now, the Regents are looking for ways to increase revenue, but increasing fees should not be one of them.
As the Regents continue to debate over tuition costs, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi is openly advocating against the rise in fees for undergraduate and graduate students.
Garamendi hopes that the Regents will reevaluate University budgets and looks for alternatives to raising student fees to help keep public universities affordable for students. On his website, Garamendi mentioned the 94-percent increase in fees at CSUs and 84-percent increase at UCs since 2002. This is definitely a larger percentage of tuition increases.
Increasing fees affects not only students and their means of paying for various college costs, but it affects the quality of education at UC and CSU campuses.
The Regents are helping do their part by examining affordability for students at the UC campuses through the UC Workgroup on Affordability, a committee established with the help of UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau. But the Berkeley chancellor has also been advocating for a large fee increase, claiming that it could make more money available for financial aide. The idea is that those who can afford the high cost of tuition will end up paying for those who can’t. The problem is that high price tags might be enough to deter prospective students from the get-go, which would shatter hopes for increasing diversity on any UC campus.
Representatives from the UC Affordability Workgroup plan to present a report on fees at the upcoming meeting, so the Regents may consider various options for the 2008-2009 budget that could benefit students who are suffering from fee increases. The results have yet to be determined.
Then again, the Regents have other options than to play politics and raise student fees. As UCSC student and member of the Workgroup wrote in an email to CHP:
“Let’s be real here, though, our fees are basically a bargaining chip for a political game of finger-pointing between the University and the State. The UC sends the state a budget asking it for money, and the state knows that the UC is perfectly willing to raise our fees to cover costs without much fuss.”
And as California Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), chair of the State Committee on Budget, says, this will adversely affect parts of the population and UC student body.
“Over time we’re on the verge of pricing out the middle class of California from a university education,” he said. “I think [the future UC student body] would be a less economically diverse group.”
Questions and worries may continue to arise, but one thing is unclear: where will all the money for tuition costs and cost of living come from? Money for funding will not grow on trees.
And for the UC Regents, it is all too easy for them to blame state budget cuts and raise tuition. In order to represent their constituents, the Regents need to demand more money from the state and from their fellow-aristocrats who must have some money to give. That is why we say: Hey, Regents, leave our fees alone!