A thinktank of students at UC Riverside have taken on the perennial problem of tuition hikes with a revolutionary funding model.
Released to the public on Jan. 10, FixUC’s Student Investment Proposal outlines a tuition plan under which students would no longer pay up-front tuition costs. Rather, upon entering a career, graduates would instead pay 5 percent of their annual salary to the university for a total of 20 years.
According to the FixUC website, this will generate “nearly three times” the revenue of the current tuition system, and “allow the University of California to reduce its dependency on unreliable state funding.”
Drafting began last April, when editorial board members of UCR’s student-run newspaper The Highlander decided they had had enough of the consequences of California’s budget crisis.
“Every week, we published an editorial [about the state cutting from UC ] … we called on the regents and the student body to change their response strategy,” said FixUC president Chris LoCascio. “Ultimately, it got to a point where we ended up meeting one to two times a week to brainstorm and come up with a plan ourselves.”
The proposal was initially kept under wraps to prevent premature criticism.
“Once we had the core ideas, we essentially poked holes in it, and kept thinking about how it wouldn’t work,” LoCascio said. “We spent a lot of time coming [up] with solutions for [the complexities].”
Although the group initially didn’t present the plan to the general UC Riverside student body, the group approached several administrators and professors for input, and pursued research of their own.
Alex Abelson, a FixUC Data analyst and fourth-year economics major, obtained statistics from UC, IRS and U.S. Department of Labor records, and used some of his own field data.
“I took the core idea of [a fixed-percentage graduate contribution] and found the numbers,” Abelson said. “I went through what the university was making, and what would be a reliable amount of contribution that would sustain the university.”
Erik Green, UCSC’s Graduate Student Association president, said he supports students looking for solutions.
“’I’m really encouraged to see a truly radical funding model,” Green said. “Rather than the system we have now, which is based on the assumption that students will graduate and get jobs … It moves towards actual statistics and data.”
Repeatedly referencing a “worst-case scenario,” the proposal assumes a mere 60 percent employment rate at $50,000 annual salary for the first 10 years of employment.
“If you look closely at our figures, you will see we were very conservative,” LoCascio said.
Stephen Lee, Riverside’s Associate Student Body president, teamed up with FixUC in the fall to help with outreach. He arranged a meeting with Chancellor Timothy P. White, and has contacted the student leadership of other campuses. All, he said, have been very encouraging and have urged them to “keep going.”
“I can’t say I support every detail in the proposal,” said UC student regent Jonathan Stein in an email. “But it’s awesome that students have begun to think outside the box about budget solutions at the UC, and have stopped waiting for the administration to come up with all the answers for them.”
The proposal has already met scrutiny and skepticism, but its authors stress the importance of open dialogue and honest compromise.
“I think this is really the highest level of student that UC was created for,” Lee said, “to not only be very educated … but to really understand all of that knowledge, and stand up for it and fight.”