Another School Year, Another Fee Increase

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    [Photo from the November 2010 regents meeting, taken Wednesday.]
    Inside the November 2010 regents meeting, taken Wednesday. Photo by Molly Solomon.
    The UC regents voted Thursday to approve an 8 percent student fee increase by a 15-5 majority. The decision, which came on the final day of the three-day meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, was made without a large presence of student activists.

    The presence of roughly 300 student protesters and a violent altercation with police the day before prompted a sizable law enforcement presence at Thursday’s meeting as a precautionary measure; however, the day’s proceedings were more subdued than Wednesday’s.

    With this increase, the basic undergraduate fees will reach a total of $11,124 per year. The 8 percent increase will provide the UC with an additional $115.8 million for the 2011–2012 school year.

    “We’re struggling to maintain the UC under budget conditions that are impossible,” said Norman J. Pattiz, a regent who voted in favor of the measure. “I see no other options but to support this. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

    The increase will amount to an additional $822 for students whose family income is above $180,000 per year. For families in the income brackets of $90,000 to $120,000 and $120,000 to $180,000 per year, the increase will be $472 and $688, respectively. Low-income students whose families earn less than $90,000 per year will not see an increase in fees, a point the regents stressed repeatedly before voting took place.

    Five members voted in opposition to the increase, including student regent Jesse Cheng, and Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonando, who was particularly vocal in his disapproval and expressed skepticism that every other resource had been explored.

    “Have we exhausted everything before increasing fees on students?” asked Maldonado, amid cheers from the few student activists present. “Are we going to cut at the top too? Because this is a two-way street.”

    Another dissenting vote came from Regent Charlene Zettel, who spoke with emotion about her refusal to go along with trend of passing the financial burden onto the backs of students.

    “We have whacked this group of students in this particular place in time attending the university,” Zettel said.

    Many regents referred to the issue at hand as a “long-term structural problem” and expressed their personal struggle in choosing to vote in favor of another fee increase. However, many of these same regents nevertheless voted in favor of the increase, because they saw it as necessary to maintain the quality of a UC education, they said.

    Eddie Island voted for the measure, but he cautioned against continued reliance on raising student fees in times of budgetary strife.

    “Be careful what you ask for,” Island said in a comment directed at UC Office of the President. “You will get it.”

    In one of the more critical speeches delivered by any of the regents, Island described what he sees as a grim reality.

    “What we’re doing is accelerating the velocity toward the destruction of something we all hold dear,” Island said.