Crumbling under the weight of its budget woes, the University of California is proposing a tiered tuition plan that subjects undergraduate students in the business and engineering disciplines to higher fees.
The plan – which will be discussed by the UC Board of Regents in November – would require undergraduate juniors and seniors who are majoring in the fields to pay $900 more a year in tuition fees. This new policy would be tacked onto tuition fees in addition to the 30 percent increase in undergraduate fees proposed by UC President Mark G. Yudof last month. The two fees, if approved, will mark the ninth and tenth times in 7 years that the UC Regents have approved an undergraduate tuition increase on its student body. The undergraduate resident fee originally proposed for 2010-11 amounts to $10,302. If the differential fee is passed, tuition for business and engineering majors would increase to $11,200.
According to UC spokesperson Leslie Sepuka, the two fields were chosen because of the high costs associated with running the programs and the hefty salaries that faculty members and business and engineering graduates make.
Sepuka also said about $10 million could be generated from the fee increase, which could impact 17,000 upper-division engineering and business students across the UC system.
Glenn E. Beltz, College of Engineering associate dean for Undergraduate Studies, said the new fee will not only impact UCSB’s 1,300 undergraduate engineering students, but discourage future students from pursuing the major.
“[I’m concerned about the] disincentive it could provide for students to go into an engineering major,” Beltz said. “… With the higher fee, it would be harder for some people to come to college and get an education in engineering.”
Additionally, Beltz said he disagrees with the administration’s logic. According to Beltz, engineering graduates’ incomes vary across the board like all disciplines — data gathered from an alumni survey last year indicates that students can earn from about $57,000 to $68,000, depending on the career.
However, Sepuka said, many other public institutions already charge differential fees by discipline.
“In 2007-08, 46 percent of public research institutions and 53 percent of Association of American Universities public institutions assessed differential charges by undergraduate field of study,” Sepuka said.
Regardless of whether the plan follows a trend, Beltz said he was concerned about the proposal’s logistical gaps. Beltz noted that the plan doesn’t specify if students who are taking engineering courses but haven’t declared the major or are changing their engineering major are subject to the pay increase. Beltz also said he questioned the University’s reasoning for classifying engineering as a “high cost” major.
“The argument can be made that it’s just as expensive to have lab science courses as engineering, yet there is no proposed higher fee for science majors,” Beltz said.
UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said in an e-mail that the UC Regents had a preliminary discussion about the proposal at their last meeting on Sept. 16. The fee increase is a complex matter requiring detailed analysis, Yang said, so particulars of the proposal may be changed before the November UC Regents meeting.
“Among the issues that will need to be discussed and addressed are the return-to-aid component and the impact of such differential fees on access, affordability and diversity,” Yang said.
The College of Letters and Science could not be reached as of press time to determine whether the proposal will affect business economics majors at UCSB.