The UC Regents Committee on Long Range Planning voted 7-2 on Wednesday in favor of UC President Janet Napolitano’s plan to increase tuition. The decision met opposition by Gov. Jerry Brown and student Regent Sadia Saifuddin, as well as hundreds of protesters outside of the building.
Students, alumni, staff and faculty across the 10 UC campuses began to plan a protest for the day of the Regents meeting after a press release from the UC Office of the President announced the proposal on Nov. 6.
The press release said Napolitano’s proposed “Long-Term Stability Plan for Tuition and Financial Aid” would increase tuition at a maximum of five percent for each of the next five years, with a guaranteed 5 percent — or $612 — increase for the 2015-16 academic year.
Additionally, the plan would enable the UC system “to enroll at least 5,000 more California students over five years, maintain the university’s robust financial aid program, reduce the student-faculty ratio, increase course selection and lessen the time to graduation.”
Although Napolitano said the proposal is a stable, predictable solution to the state’s higher education budget crisis, hundreds of protesters chanted outside the meeting in the rain with picket signs and bullhorns, demanding that tuition not increase at all.
“Raising tuition decreases access to the college,” said Jameson Rush, a third-year UC Santa Cruz student. “It damages our society and disproportionately affects students of color and working class students. It has become apparent that the administration, the state and the Regents aren’t on our side. They’re not interested in providing an education for everyone. They’re interested in making a business that they’re turning this university into. ”
Protesters arrived at the UC San Francisco William J. Rutter Center as early as 6:30 a.m. There were about 20 UCSF police officers at the front entrance of the building, where protesters linked arms in an effort to create a human blockade that would prevent Regents from entering the building, and thus cancel the meeting.
UCSF spokeswoman Elizabeth Fernandez said a group of protesters forced their way through metal barricades and past security lines. One protester, 21-year-old UC Berkeley student Jeff Noven, was arrested on suspicion of inciting a riot and vandalism for breaking a glass door.
During the meeting, Napolitano said the UC’s complex options to remedy the lack of funding were assessed during the three-year UC tuition freeze. The state’s disinvestment in the last few years has slashed nearly $1 billion from the UC’s budget, Napolitano said. After analyzing the UC budget and weighing potential solutions, Napolitano said the UC’s best option is to cover costs by increasing student fees.
“This plan brings clarity to the tuition and financial aid process for our students and their families,” Napolitano said. “It eliminates the need for a massive tuition increase in the future. It allows our campus leaders and the faculty to know on a multi-year basis what their budgets are likely to be so that they, in turn, can better plan for the future.”
Gov. Brown commended other Regents’ efforts to resolve the budget crisis, but said he was against the plan to increase tuition.
“I am going to vote against the 5 percent tuition increase,” Gov. Brown said. “We’re not talking that there’s a scarcity here that makes it impossible to live with. There is money.”
Gov. Brown introduced his own proposal to use funds for the UC, California State University and community college systems more efficiently. Stating that the proposal would be put on an agenda for a January Regents meeting, Gov. Brown said the plan has five initiatives.
Some of them include identifying ways for students to complete undergraduate degrees in three years or fewer, expanding policies that would give students units for work experience or military training and offer online courses that would enroll a large number of students beyond the capacity of any seat-based classroom, among others.
Despite the proposal of a new plan, the committee voted in favor of the Long-Term Stability Plan, the two dissenters being Gov. Brown and student Regent and UC Berkeley fourth-year Sadia Saifuddin. However, Saifuddin did not support Gov. Brown’s plan either.
“We’ve done studies — students do not want an online classroom to supplant their education,” Saifuddin said. “We want a four-year university. We want to be able to talk to our professors and our [graduate student instructors]. We want to be able to learn in real time.”
The approved plan means that UC students will face a 5 percent increase in tuition for the 2015-16 school year, but some students remained hopeful.
“There could’ve been more cohesion between all the different UC groups we saw today,” said fourth-year UCSC student Dayton Andrews, “but it was a step in the right direction and there will be a lot more. We just have to keep it up.”
When asked if he was disappointed with the Regents’ decision, Andrews said, “I would be disappointed if this had all happened and I didn’t do anything at all.”
Additional reporting done by Susana Alvarez and Pamela Avila