One theory behind escaping a recession is that things have to hit the proverbial “rock bottom,” before they can build themselves back up.
The same may be true for UC undergraduate student tuition fees.
A proposal released earlier this month would raise basic undergraduate fees for California residents to $10,302 by next fall – 44 percent higher than they were in the fall of 2008, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
The first of the proposal’s increases would be a $585 increase for the 2009 school year.
“The state now funds each student by about half of what it did only two decades ago,” said UC President Mark G. Yudof in a press release. “Students have been forced to pick up some of the difference, because when it comes to our core funding, there are only two primary sources – taxpayer dollars from the state and fees paid by students.”
ASUCD Senator Jack Zwald called the increase unwarranted and dangerous.
“All these fee increases are moving public education to a point where only a certain amount of people in the state can afford it,” Zwald said. “It’s taking public education out of the hands of everyone in the state.”
The resulting exclusivity from the proposed increase would affect every income bracket, but especially middle-class families – many of whom are on the edge of the qualifying numbers for financial aid, and whose students could be squeezed out of the system.
“[Potential UC students] get pushed out, and would have to go to a community college for two years to fund their UC education,” Zwald said. “It interrupts the education, and that’s not positive.”
Another student agreed with Zwald and expressed concern that future cuts will likely impede on the type of students the UC will attract.
“If the regents keep raising our fees, it’s going to be like segregation, but instead of racism it’s classism – only the wealthy people will be able to attend,” said Johnathen Duran, a fifth-year senior community and regional development major during a rally on the quad on Tuesday.
What makes matters worse is not the increase but the cutback in service – that students are paying more money to get drastically less, Zwald said.
However Fred Wood, vice chancellor of student affairs, said preserving the strength of a UC diploma throughout the financial storm has been among the regents’ biggest challenges.
“How to not impact students has been the hardest part of the puzzle for the regents. They need to make significant cuts while still maintaining the quality of students’ degrees,” said Wood during Tuesday’s rally.
Wood noted that a notion some students and faculty have is that a large amount of money in reserves is a grave misperception, as most of it is restricted for grants, or is stored to pay off loans in May.
UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said the university has yet to finalize the proposal, but that they were leaving no stone unturned in searching for other solutions. The current plan states that one-third of any tuition increases would be channeled to financial aid.
One idea reportedly under consideration, as mentioned in a Sept. 11 Los Angeles Times article, is to assess extra fees to upper division undergraduate majors such as business and engineering. Zwald said such a fee would be “outrageous.”
“If I’m paying tuition, I’m paying to go to UC Davis and not to pay extra money to graduate and take some upper division classes,” he said. “We need more scientists, engineers and business people and we shouldn’t dissuade them by charging more.”
Wood assured the regents are doing all they can do mitigate the damages.
“The cuts we made are less visible to the general population of students. We tried to keep students out of this as long as possible. Believe me, everything’s been looked at,” he said.
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. LAUREN STEUSSY contributed to this article.