In a closely watched vote, the University of California Board of Regents Finance Committee approved student fee increases yesterday.
If the full regents board approves the finance committee vote today, student fees will increase by 32 percent over the next year.
Undergraduate fee increases will be divided into a 15 percent mid-year increase for this spring and another 15 percent increase will occur in the fall of 2010. Resident undergraduate fees will rise to $10,302 and nonresident graduates will pay $11,160 in fees.
Graduate students will see a 2.6 percent increase in fees.
Regents who voted for the measure expressed reluctance but deemed the proposal as necessary for the budget.
“As we consider the fees today, I know we will make a departure from core values of our university,” said UC Regent Eddie Island. “We are in a very grave financial situation and I am left without any other alternative.”
Student and faculty critical of the fee increases organized protests in response. Protestors are holding strikes at UC Berkeley and UCLA. UC Davis students bussed and carpooled this morning to join the event in Berkeley.
Students and faculty will also rally outside Mrak Hall on Thursday at 11 a.m. Though many were aware on the way to Berkeley that the regents would vote in favor of the cut, they hoped to raise awareness for the problems the fee increases may cause.
“We may have lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war,” said one student waiting for the bus yesterday morning. “This is really about having a firm goal in mind and getting it achieved. We have to ask ourselves what else can we solve.”
After the main rally in Berkeley, protestors will hold a general assembly, in which they will vote on the same issues regents listed on their agendas.
UC Strike, which called for the system-wide strike, asked UC faculty to stand in solidarity with students.
“We wish to state our solidarity with students and other sectors of the campus who will once again be forced to bear the burden of fee increases and cuts to salaries and resources,” read a pledge on UC Strike’s website.
Low-income students will be shielded from the fee hikes because the regents have expanded the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. The financial aid program will extend coverage of mandatory system-wide fees to undergraduates with family incomes from $60,000 or less to $70,000 or less.
Thirty-three percent of undergraduate, 50 percent of graduate and 33 percent of professional student fee revenues will be funneled back into $147 million in financial aid, according the finance committee report.
UC will also use the fee revenues to restore cancelled courses, hire more faculty, address large classes and restore student services. No revenue would be used for construction projects, said Leslie Sepuka, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President.
The regents meeting opened with an extended public comment session. For 40 minutes, speakers expressed their grievances and urged the regents to vote against the fee hikes. Many people said the increases would limit opportunity to attend the UC.
“Some of my students may not be here next quarter,” said Paul Von Blum, an African studies lecturer at UCLA. “They are not statistics, they are human beings. Do not abandon the heart and soul of this university.”
Fourteen protestors from the meeting were arrested for disrupting the proceedings. No injuries were reported. Several students interrupted the regents’ discussion with chants and outcries.
“How do you sleep at night?” one student shouted during the meeting.
UC President Mark Yudof said he understood the anger directed at the regents but felt the increase was necessary in light of budget cuts.
“Our job as regents and president is to defend the university. An avalanche of words will not balance the budget and save money.” Yudof said. “We need to take decisive action on the budget.”
The state has slashed $813 million in funding to the system. As the UC funding gap grew from $1 billion in 2009-2010 to $1.2 billion for 2010-2011, UC administrators realized they could not rely on state funding.
Some disagreed that the increase was necessary and view the increase as a move toward privatizing the UC.
“We have seen a very one-sided response to UC’s financial issues, namely the belief that the solution to our problems is to make students pay more, pay workers less and channel all frustration towards Sacramento,” said Jeffrey Bergamini, a system programmer for the Hart interdisciplinary program.
Most students have expressed disheartenment at the regents’ expected decision.
“UC had a commitment to education, but they lost that vision,” said Jonathen Duran, a senior community and regional development major who attended the protest in Berkeley. “I just want my kids to attend college.”
LAUREN STEUSSY contributed to reporting. LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.