The widely-contested annual 5 percent UC tuition hike will not go into effect until the 2017-18 school year for resident students as a part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget, released on May 14. The “May Revise” budget prioritizes public education funding, with the UC set to receive $507 million over the next four years from state general revenue funding, and $436 million over the next three years to cover rising pension debt.
The UC Board of Regents will vote on May 21 whether to approve the new budget, and determine out-of-state tuition increases. The California Legislature will also need to accept the budget and may provide additional funding for enrollment growth.
“With this agreement, the governor has recognized the need to reinvest in UC as well as the imperative to provide students, their families and the university with a reliable way to budget for the cost of a UC education,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in an email to all UC undergraduates.
UC Student Regent-designate Abraham “Avi” Oved emphasized that students realize the tuition freeze doesn’t guarantee “full-fledged investment” by the state. Oved said all students, whether protesting on the ground or talking behind closed doors to state legislators, play an integral role in a “greater movement.”
“It would be a detriment for students to think this battle is won when we have only jumped a hurdle in the overall obstacle of funding higher education,” Oved said. “I don’t expect students to think that their job is done, because I know that they won’t. They know that the fight is still a long uphill battle and I’m sure that students are already prepared to organize against anything that runs contrary to the state of the university.”
To receive the $436 million, Brown outlined that the UC regents must approve a new pension salary cap of nearly half the current amount — down to $117,020 from $265,000 — for employees hired after its implementation.
“The university’s commitment to contain the exorbitant executive pensions that divert resources away from UC’s core public mission is also an important step forward, provided it is not used as a tool to undermine the retirement security of its lower paid, frontline staff,” said American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger in a statement.
Napolitano said she will continue to “secure additional permanent funding to enroll more California students.” While the original tuition increase proposed 5,000 more enrolled students over the next five years across all UC campuses, Brown’s revised budget freezes enrollment numbers along with in-state tuition.
However, the revise allows up to an 8 percent tuition increase for out-of-state UC students, and the exact amount will be decided upon at the UC regents meeting this week. UC graduate students enrolled in professional programs will also likely see increases that will vary by campus and discipline, according to the proposal.
The increase in the number of nonresident students admitted to the UC next year is still unknown, as the UC delayed the release of admission data, citing the unknown amount of state funding it would receive. At UC Santa Cruz last year, the acceptance rate for in-state students was 53.6 percent, compared to 85 percent for out-of-state students.
“Every quarter to see this atrocious number in my face of how much I have to pay compared to people working just as hard as me is really hard,” said Jamie Epstein, an out-of-state student at UCSC. “I have been part of the tuition hike protests, I’ve talked to officials and protested. I’ve done all of the work that [California residents] have done and then to find out that I am excluded in the tuition freeze is such a slap in the face.”
Chancellor George Blumenthal expressed his concern about out-of-state enrollment after the budget proposal. UCSC is currently in a $7 million fiscal deficit for the coming year — a deficit that is in part paid for by out-of-state and international student tuition funds.
In an email issued to the UCSC community, Blumenthal explained that this strategy might “jeopardize our, and other campuses’, ability to attract more students from outside California.”
Ethan Pezzolo, one of the students arrested during the protest that blocked Highway 17 on March 3, said in a statement that the “freeze didn’t come from compassion or empathy,” or from Brown or Napolitano, but was a result of tireless student activism since November.
“We have seen tuition hikes, we have seen the responding protests, and we have seen the freeze before,” Pezzolo said. “How the ‘May Revise’ and its two-year tuition freeze has been presented is a facade. They are pacifying students by making this seem like a solution, like a victory.”
In her email announcing the tuition freeze, Napolitano thanked the “thousands of UC students, faculty, staff, alumni and others who have joined our efforts in advocating for increased state funding for UC.”
“Your voices have been instrumental in helping to bring about this historic agreement, and I sincerely appreciate your partnership,” she wrote.
This perspective expressed in the email contradicts her comment calling a student demonstration at the UC regents meeting “crap.” UC Student Regent-designate Oved said that he can neither “defend or support” her comment. It was a “huge misstep” on Napolitano’s part that shattered the trust between Napolitano and UC students.
“This serves as a platform for students to engage and have certain things that should be met,” Oved said in response to the contradiction between the language used to describe the protesters and her reflection in the email. “It’s actually an important strategic opportunity for students to take advantage of because they have more leverage.”
After nearly five months of meetings between Brown and Napolitano in their “committee of two,” which closely examined the UC’s funding allocations and needs, the pair have seemed to have settled on an agreement. The University of California Student Association (UCSA) still argues there are many long-term solutions that need to be addressed to keep the UC affordable and accessible.
“In response, UC students have united under the banner of the Committee of 240,000, and repeatedly called for a more democratic, transparent and inclusive process from the University,” the UCSA statement said. “Students provided testimony in Sacramento and feedback to the governor’s office on a number of proposals, all of which focus on more fiscal accountability from the UC and a genuine reinvestment in higher education by the state.”
The revise also boosted K-12 and community college funding by $6 billion from his January allocations. However, the California State University system was disappointed with the requested $60 million in funds that it wasn’t granted.
While in two years UC tuition is expected to increase by the rate of inflation, which would be capped at 5 percent, one additional cost for UC students that will start next year is 5 percent increase to the Student Services Fee — about $48 — to fund student mental health services. The UC system will also consider degree requirements for 10 of its 15 most popular majors for students to graduate in three years, possibly through online classes.
“My question is why is it always tuition [hikes] that are Plan A,” Oved said. “Are we really exercising the different options that we have available to the UC regents and to UCOP to really fund the staff and operating expenses?”