The UC Board of Regents will meet at UC San Francisco Mission Bay next week, on Nov. 19, to discuss a proposed tuition increase of as much as five percent annually for the next five years, depending on the level of state funding the UC receives over the next four years.

The proposal presents, at most, a five percent increase on current tuition rates, contingent on the state’s allocation to the UCs. According to the proposal, if the state can provide additional funds, then it is possible that the tuition increase could be lessened or even eliminated.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown committed to provide state support to the UC system at a rate of five percent annual funding increases through the end of the 2014-15 academic year, and four percent annually for the following two years, until the end of the 2016-17 academic year. However, according to the California Department of Finance, this rate was contingent on the UC’s ability to maintain tuition rates at 2011-2012 levels — or $12,192 per year — until after the 2016-2017 academic year, even though the proposed UC tuition hike itself is contingent on increased support from the state.

According to H.D. Palmer, Deputy Director for External Affairs at the California Department of Finance, the Governor’s Multi-Year Funding Plan to increase state support for UC was made on the condition that tuition rates stay the same — at $12,192 per year — until the 2016-17 fiscal year. Palmer declined to comment on what would happen if the UC Board of Regents were to approve of the proposal.

UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein said the proposal was made to give students and families a “proactive plan” in light of what UC representatives allege to be uncertainty regarding future state funding. When asked about whether the plan was a result of Brown’s rejection of a proposed budget in September that would have provided $50 million to the UCs, she said the new proposal was “a direct result of the cuts in state funding over the years.”
“We’re still $460 million below what we were in 2007 for state funding even though we have thousands more California students enrolled,” Klein said.

According to Klein, there is a surplus of state funds that could be given to the UC, but whether or not that occurs relies on prioritization by the state.

“Clearly, we can see the legislature last year allocated money for the universities and that was vetoed. The money is there,” Klein said. “We have a budget surplus and it is even greater than was previously announced. The funds are there; it’s just a matter of priority.”

According to Palmer, statewide property tax revenues were not as high as projected in 2013, and thus the state was unable to provide an additional $50 million to the UCs. A bill to amend the 2014 Budget Act to include $50 million in funding for the UC and the California State Universities, titled AB1476, was vetoed by Brown earlier this year.

Palmer also said the unexpected cost of fighting fires across California this September has disrupted the state’s ability to be able to provide more funding for schools.

The Associated Students Office of External Vice President for Statewide Affairs released a statement last Thursday stating that A.S. is “deeply concerned about the commitment of both Governor Brown and the Regents to the future of higher education.”

“Just this year, the California state budget proposed by Governor Brown called for a measly 4 percent increase of funding for the UC system, an investment that does not even cover the cost of inflation,” a Nov. 7 A.S. press release stated. “This action, among many, goes against the state of California’s promise to affordable higher education for citizens and contributes to the systematic downfall of the public university system.”

The UC’s proposed plan, according to the UC budget summary, addresses “mandatory costs,” including retirement contributions, amounting to roughly 19 percent of the total increase, employee health benefits and academic merit increases. The proposal also addresses the need to start “reinvesting in the quality of core instruction and research programs while continuing to protect access and affordability.”

According to Klein, the goals of the tuition hike include aims to increase the number of enrolled undergraduates by 5,000 students, decrease the student-teacher ratio by bringing in more faculty, and lessen time to graduation by increasing the number of classes— all while allowing the UC system to maintain the current financial aid structure.

“Almost all of this money will go directly to increase the student educational experience,” Klein said. “Each campus has their own needs and they will receive this additional funding directly based on their student population.”

Second-year ecology major Sebastian Walton said he is concerned about the effect the tuition increase will have on his ability to pay for school, given the already high price of out-of-state tuition.

“It makes sense that [the UCs] are trying to charge us around every corner,” Walton said. “I’m already paying more than twice as much as anybody else. It’s one of the most expensive out-of-state schools in the country. It’s going to really end up affecting me with all the loans. It’s going to end up costing a lot.”

Second-year chemical engineering major Daniel Murillo said the tuition increase seems counterintuitive to the concept of a public school.

“I don’t see the need to increase tuition,” Murillo said. “They’re driving people away from their universities by increasing the costs of admissions.”
A statement from the EVPSA office said the tuition increase is not in the best interest of students, as student loans are at an all-time high across the nation.
“As students, we stand against this tuition increase as such measures represent an unjust burden and significant hindrance toward the pursuit of academic achievement,” the press release stated.

EVPSA Melvin Singh could not be reached for comment.

A version of the story appeared on page 1 of the Nov. 13, 2014 print issue of the Daily Nexus.