LOS ANGELES – University of California resident undergraduate student fees will go up $435 a year beginning this summer, as the UC Board of Regents voted on March 14 to increase the cost by 7 percent.
Despite heavy opposition from demonstrating union organizers and student protesters, the regents approved the mandatory systemwide fee increase in a 13-6 vote during their Committee on Finance session, as well as in their general assembly, at UCLA’s Covel Commons. Also scheduled to rise are UC resident graduate student fees, moving up 7 percent to $7,440, as well as most professional school fees by 7 percent, and select law and business schools by an average total of 10 percent.
In response to the fee increases, members of the UC Students Association testified on April 1 at the California Senate Budget subcommittee on Education, and lobbied the legislature for a buyout of the new fees. The organization had also previously organized for postcards to be sent to state representatives in a bid to prevent the fee hike.
Joining the students’ complaints about the fee increase were a few members of the board, including Regent Odessa P. Johnson, who questioned what she called an arbitrary percentage increase.
“You must explain fees,” Johnson, who voted against the increase, said. “You need to tell me at least how to categorize the 7 percent, you need to explain this or I won’t vote until I see it.
“We are a quality institution, but I get concerned when I see problems continuing to escalate, especially on smaller campuses like Merced where the increase of student fees is a detriment to diversity. … You ask me to vote for a 7 percent increase this year and the year after I have got to stop and say when are you going to stop the bleeding?”
In response to inquiries regarding the fees’ impact, Regent and Vice President of the Budget Larry Hershman said the move was specifically designed to mitigate additional financial burdens on students from low-income families. He said the University’s return-to-aid package, funded by redistributing 33 percent of student systemwide fees to those in need of financial assistance, will cover the increased cost of education.
Regents categorized UC students’ families into three brackets: those generating a yearly salary below $60,000, those from families earning between $60,000 and $100,000 annually, and lastly, the students whose families’ yearly income is in excess of $100,000 per year. Those in the lowest bracket will be fully covered by the funds provided through return-to-aid packages.
“After Financial Aid and Cal Grants, the net fee increase will not affect students whose parental income is $60,000 or less,” Hershman said. “They will be better off with the fee increase because we have money to help with other financial costs.”
In addition, based on this return-to-aid calculation, students whose families net an income of under $100,000 annually will only end up paying 3.5 percent of the fee hike, with the remaining amount coming from financial aid packages.
“For the higher financial classes, funding should not dissuade them from coming to university,” Hershman said.
About 50 students and organizers from the UC Student Association and the United States Student Association, both of which are student lobby groups, traveled to the Los Angeles campus to protest the fee hikes. Ten UCSB students also joined.
According to Briget Arndell, a first-year environmental studies major who was involved in the rallies at yesterday’s meeting, Gauchos accounted for the second highest turnout of UC students, behind UCLA.
Students from UC Irvine, representing both the USSA and UCSA organizations, also sent students to the demonstration, she said.
Arndell said the fee increases would disproportionately affect students attending campuses in more expensive locations, such as UCSB.
“We’re trying to persuade them not to increase tuition prices because doing so makes it really hard for students who go to school [in areas] where it’s very expensive to live, especially Santa Barbara,” Arndell said.
Also present at the event was UCSB senior Bill Shiebler, current Associated Students vice president of statewide affairs as well as the UC Student Association president.
Following the board’s approval of the 7 percent systemwide fee increase, Shiebler led a pack of chanting student protesters through the Covel Commons conference room to the front of the building to demonstrate against the committee’s decision.
Surrounded by students holding signs scribbled with slogans like “Higher Education, Not Higher Fees” and “10 Campuses that are Unaffordable and Inaccessible,” Shiebler delivered an enthusiastic charge against what he called an “unacceptable rise” in educational costs. He proceeded to describe UC students’ current struggle to fight escalating costs and encouraged the protesters to continue voicing their opinions.
“This is a student struggle for access, affordability and equality,” Shiebler said. “Keep amplifying [the] noise down here to the decision-makers up there.”
Members of the board of regents cited a number of different reasons for the need to increase fees, but particularly emphasized the need to maintain the University’s status as one of the world’s leading research and education institutions. According to a March 14 press release from the UC Office of the President, the hikes will “preserve the quality of UC’s teaching and research programs.”
The press release also claimed the increases were a product of the University’s ongoing recovery “from major [California state] budget cuts earlier this decade,” and that the extra money from fees would help to “ensure that all students continue to have access to the classes they need to progress to timely graduation.”
After the board’s vote, President Robert C. Dynes said in a press room interview that though he never liked to see hikes in student fees, increases were unavoidable if the UC expects to maintain the high quality of student services, education, faculty retention and research.
“I hate this notion of raising fees,” Dynes said. “I hate it.”
-Megan Snedden and Aria Miran contributed to this article