UC President Mark Yudof sent an open letter to California on Monday, proposing to increase student fees for the 2011-12 academic year by eight percent.
The UC Board of Regents will vote on the tuition spike — potentially the tenth increase to undergraduate student tuition in the past eight years — at their Nov. 16-18 UC San Francisco Mission Bay Regents meeting. The hike would charge students an additional $822 per year, bringing average annual undergraduate tuition to $12,150. The increase would generate roughly $180 million annually for the UC, with $64 million going toward financial aid and the remaining $116 million to UC’s operating budget.
Yudof said proposing the fee increase was a difficult decision, but he felt it necessary to begin to lift UC out of its financial crisis.
“These won’t be the last tough decisions the university will face,” Yudof said in the letter. “But they are essential steps upward out of a hole that was a long time in the digging. Californians should never accept the idea of their University of California tumbling toward mediocrity.”
Many students see the hike as an unfair burden — especially in addition to last year’s 32 percent increase — although money generated from the increase is slated to go toward adding new courses and sections, improving library hours, buying new instructional equipment and restoring student-faculty ratios and student services.
However, UCSB Associated Students President Paul Monge-Rodriguez, a fourth-year sociology major, said past fee increases that promised similar benefits for students have yet to yield any productive results.
“I think the biggest frustration is that we’re just coming off paying an additional 32 percent,” Monge-Rodriguez said. “We’re paying more money but we’re not seeing more classes, we’re not seeing more TAs in our classes. We haven’t moved forward from having to pay more.”
UC Student Association President Claudia Magana, a third-year politics, Latin American & Latino studies and sociology major at UC Santa Cruz, said tuition hikes increases leave students without a sense of security or agency at the UC.
“In the past four years, if you add them together, our fees have gone up 52 percent,” Magana said. “I don’t think its fair coming to an institution expecting to pay one price, if your family or yourself has to pay, and there’s no security because you don’t know how much it’ll cost every year.”
UC Office of the President spokesperson Leslie Sepuka said she was sympathetic to students’ concerns but that UC simply needs more money.
“The same kind of concern they’re facing about repaying their debt is the exact same concern we’re facing about running the university,” Sepuka said. “We have a series of obligations we have to pay, and we have to piece together the money to pay those obligations. I certainly sympathize with the students’ concerns about it, but we have half as much money as we did last year so we’re using a number of different mechanisms to raise that money.”
Sepuka also said the fee increases are necessary to maintain UC’s tradition of excellence.
“I think the main purpose at this point is to try to right the ship,” Sepuka said. “It’s to try to preserve excellence and we’re seeing our faculty try to be lured away, and we’re seeing classes cut and we’re seeing the inability of students to graduate in four years. We want to make that possible.”
Yudof’s proposal does include certain provisions to offset students’ financial burdens. Yudof asked the Board of Regents to expand UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan so that students with family incomes below $70,000 who qualify for financial aid would have their tuitions fully covered. In addition, students whose families make between $70,000 and $120,000 who qualify for the middle-income grant program would have the eight percent fee increase covered by UC for one year.
However, some students anticipate that this tiered fee system may divide the UC student body.
A.S. Internal Vice President Marjan Riazi, a third-year environmental studies major, said the new system will create divisions among students.
“We just want to remain united as an entire community,” Riazi said. “By creating that [tiered] kind of class system on campus, it’s going to separate everyone and we’re not going to be this united front anymore.”