Even the Regents admit it: Student fees will probably go up next year.
Either the state ponies up $815 million in funding for the UC system or student fees will have to increase — that’s the gist of the proposed 2009-10 UC operating budget. The ultimatum, brought on by dire budgetary constraints in Sacramento, was lauded as a victory for students, but, as the University of California admits in the budget itself, the state probably cannot provide the cash.
“There’s not a snowball’s chance that we’re going to be at $800 million from the state,” Regent Judith Hopkinson said at last week’s Regents Meeting in San Francisco. “And to additionally assume they’ll give us that money and keep fees down is to work with blinders on.”
To make up for the budget shortfall, the Regents have discussed a 9.4 percent student fee increase. The potential hike would drive annual fees up to about $8,669 for undergraduates and $11,124 for graduate students.
In the last decade, fee hikes have become a bit of an annual tradition for UC students. This past year, undergraduates saw their fees jump to $6,571 — a far cry from the $3,859 paid by students in 2002-03.
Associated Students President J.P. Primeau said students should not be forced to deal with the state’s budget cuts alone.
“What I’m mad about is that the UC is effectively placing the entire burden of the state budget cuts on students,” Primeau said. “The UC has demonstrated a complete inability to develop any sort of capability to decide any sort of budget strategy.”
Michael Strack, a third-year electrical engineering major, said he’ll do what countless UC students have done before him.
“There’s really nothing I can do about that,” Strack said. “I’m just going to pay the fees and be upset.”
Jennifer Doyle, a third-year psychology major, said she predicts that the UC will cut financial aid and restrict admissions systemwide.
“We are a public institution, so our aid sucks,” Doyle said. “Not only are they going to cut student aid, but they are raising our fees. I think we’re going to see a drop in student population.”
According to regent designate Jesse Bernal, the chances of the government actually funding the UC’s full request are slim.
“This money has to be supplied by the state or the likelihood of the fees increasing is pretty high,” Bernal said. “The governor usually supplies unrestricted funds, allowing the university to make the decision of where the funds go… The governor has always been a proponent of education and the Regents are aware that we’re in a crisis that we haven’t been in before, so students will remain in the forefront.”
Morgan Anders, a second-year political science and communications major, said she is not too concerned with the rising cost of student fees.
“It’s not the best thing, but the price we pay for our education is not that bad,” Anders said. “I’d like to consider myself lucky… we’re not a Third World country. You have got to look at the positive side of things. $1,200 a year is bad, but that’s life.”
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young said planning for the increase in tuition is at a preliminary stage and the board has put off the final decision on what to do until January when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will release his proposed budget.
“The bottom line is that [the UC] is anticipating additional cuts from the state,” Young said. “A portion of the fee increase would be designed to replace those dollars that would be cut from the school budgets.”
The Regents are expected to vote on the potential hike no later than March of next year.