The buzz is out about the Governor’s 2007-08 budget and students are responding in large numbers, letting Sacramento and the UC Regents know that the UC is becoming a mechanism for debt instead of opportunity. Students are facing an increase in student fees from 7-10%, a 25% increase in registration fees, an increase of $500 to the work loan burden and the elimination of Academic Preparation program funding. Ultimately, every student, whether or not they receive financial aid, will be paying more out of pocket next year if the Governor’s budget passes.

Since 2002, student fees have skyrocketed 79% for undergraduates, 84% for graduate students and 69-131% for professional students. Over the last five years, undergraduate student fees have had an increase that once took 20 years of fee escalation. What’s worse is that financial aid is not reflecting this sharp increase in the cost of going to college. Now, the Governor is proposing to increases fees by over 7% for UC students.

Graduate students have faced even higher fee increases. Fees went up $3,000 over twenty years from 1978 to 1998, and then another $3,000 in just five years from 2002 to 2007. Also, most professional students are being forced to endure sporadically steady and extreme fee increases, blurring the line between public and private universities. Skyrocketing student debt levels make it even harder for professional students to enter into public sector carriers as, for example, doctors, nurses or lawyers. In addition, not all schools have loan repayment programs, and those that do are drastically under-funded. As a public university, the UC has the responsibility to develop students who can apply their education to the public sector, yet they are failing California by driving professional students to unmanageable levels of debt.

The Education Finance Model for the 2007-08 year requires that every undergraduate student contribute at least $10,000 towards their education each year through work and loans, a $500 increases from the 2006-07 school year. As fees continue to rise, so does the workload burden of students. The UC Office of the President continues to make the argument that a UC education is affordable for low-income students because of the UC’s financial aid program and that low-income students do not see the effects of fee increases. However, each year, students are seeing increases to their workload, putting an even heavier burden on the backs of students.

In addition, surveys show students are expected to work 14-20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during the summer. But one in seven students are already working more than 20 hours per week to support their education. Students need stronger financial support to meet the UC’s high academic standards and yet student loan expectations are set based on the assumption that a UC undergraduate will make $45,000 per year upon graduation.

After three years of zero funding and endless efforts to track, demonstrate and convince various stakeholders of the worth of these programs, the governor has once again proposed to eliminate funding to Academic Preparation programs. These programs have been cut by over $60 million dollars in the last 5 years, giving them only a shadow of what they once had. The cuts to these programs only compound the barriers students face. The UC is already facing a diversity crisis and cutting funding to these programs will only make it worse.

UCSA is taking action to hold the governor and legislature accountable for their commitment to an affordable and accessible higher education in 2007-08. Students will be demanding a fee freeze for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, Academic Preparation program funding restored to $33 million and the passing of AB175, which will increase the Cal Grant B award.

Hundreds of calls have already been made to the governor and legislators last week to let them know the “Price is Wrong” for higher education. In the coming weeks, students statewide will be collecting postcards that will be delivered during key hearings in the Capitol. On Feb. 24 to 26, over 250 UC students statewide will gather in Sacramento for the UCSA UC Student Lobby Conference and Lobby Day, making it clear that the “Price is Wrong.”