When the UC Board of Regents voted in November to raise student fees 32 percent – with part of the hike beginning spring quarter – students were justifiably angry.
It was the most aggressive move the regents have made in recent history. Past fee hikes were scheduled to begin at the start of the next academic year, and they were always much smaller than 32 percent. Students expressed their anger statewide, occupying buildings and holding rallies.
Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Merced) has proposed a bill that would prevent dramatic fee hikes like this in the future. Dubbed the Student Protection Act, it would require UC and CSU to cap their fee increases to 10 percent each year. It would also require a waiting period of 180 days before any fee hike could take effect.
Had Denham’s bill been law in 2009, the regents would have only been able to raise fees by 10 percent, and the increase wouldn’t have started until this summer.
The bill needs to pass.
It doesn’t matter whether your grandma is fully financing your education or you’re struggling to get by on Pell grants. When the bills go up, it takes time to rearrange finances and find new scholarships or new jobs. Students deserve the security of knowing their fees won’t be jacked up mid-year.
Moreover, the sheer size of this year’s fee hike for UC students means many students will drop out entirely. A 32 percent increase is too much for many to absorb in one year. Limiting fee increases to 10 percent would help students who are struggling financially stay in school. It would also force the regents to ration their fee increases more wisely.
It is unfortunate that some in the reform movement at UC Davis are rejecting this bill. Associate Professor Joshua Clover said the bill was “scandalously indifferent to actually funding public education.” It may be true that this bill doesn’t directly address the critical higher education funding issue, but its provisions are valuable and necessary nonetheless.
Let’s not let good become the enemy of perfect. We can and should support Denham’s bill and demand more concrete action from the state at the same time.