University of California President Mark G. Yudof discussed the potential for further systemwide student fee hikes and budgetary changes during a telephone press conference held from Oakland yesterday.
Yudof introduced a number of controversial action items that will be featured on the agenda of the next Board of Regents meeting, to be held at UC San Francisco Mission Bay from Nov. 16 to 18. In addition to voting on an 8 percent student tuition increase, the board will also vote on amendments to the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan — a UC financial aid plan that fully covers the tuition fees of California residents whose families earn less than $70,000.
If they approve the tuition jump next week, the Regents will have increased systemwide educational costs by 40 percent over a two-year span.
According to Yudof, the proposed fee hike is an absolute last resort.
“The bottom line is that we’re about a billion dollars behind and the students are only defraying a small portion of that,” Yudof said. “I don’t increase employee contribution lightly. I don’t increase fees lightly. I do it so that we can continue to serve California.”
Executive Vice President for Business Operations Nathan Brostrom said the prospective increase — effective summer of 2011 — is a sobering, but necessary measure for safeguarding the future of the UC.
“A tuition increase is absolutely essential in order to meet our costs,” Brostrom said. “All the recent administration efficiency changes are going to be saving us money so that the increases can be minimized.”
In order to soften the blow of yet another fee increase following last year’s 32 percent hike, Yudof said California families earning between $80,000 and $120,000 would receive a one-year waiver before the fee increase would affect them.
“This will allow time for people to adjust and hopefully for the economy to stabilize,” Yudof said. “My hope is that we will be able to keep these fee increases to a minimum.”
Additionally, the board will vote on a proposal to increase the number of students covered by UC financial aid benefits.
“As of now, the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan allows students whose families make less than $70,000 a year to not have to pay for their education,” Yudof said. “I propose that the cutoff move to $80,000. This will make it so that nearly two-thirds of California families fall under the plan.”
Yudof said the board will also hear plans for a two-tiered system of employment to address a $20 billion pension liability. Current employees would make up one tier and new hires would comprise the second tier.
“Employees hired after July 2013 would have a different benefit package that will cost the university less,” Yudof said. “The benefits for current employees won’t change, but they will have to pay more. We made a commitment to them and we plan to follow through and not change pension plans.”
According to Yudof, the drastic proposals on the table are necessary to keep the UC afloat.
“It’s my job to worry about 10, 20 years down the road,” Yudof said. “And that’s what I’m doing. My goal is to move the university past the current economic crisis and into a more stable future. It may not be as bright as I like, but there is a light at the end of this tunnel.”