The UC Commission on the Future revealed several strategies to cope with budget cuts and student fee increases at last month’s regent’s meeting. Some ideas are drastic, while others are vague in their predicted success.
Although these strategies are not yet fully fleshed out, it is better for the five groups under the commission to assume the worst than to be surprised. The current economic climate does not ensure stability.
One idea that poses practical promise is a multi-year fee increase schedule, establishing that fees for incoming undergraduate and transfer students will rise at a fixed rate or according to inflation for the duration of their enrollment. A fixed-rate plan offers predictability for students and their parents, along with time to plan for increasing fees.
If the regents believe increasing fees is the only way to combat the budget dilemma, this is the fairest of the proposed plans. An alternative plan, called “aggressive” increases, would result in a wide range of possible funding. This plan does not make fee increases constant and would raise fees close to amounts comparable private schools.
A fixed rate plan ensures fees will rise, for example, 5 percent annually over the course of enrollment as opposed to 5 percent one year, 10 percent the next and 15 percent the year after. This plan’s ideology also coincides with Sen. Jeff Denham’s (R-Merced) Student Protection Act, which would require the UC and CSU systems to provide a 180-day waiting period prior to implementing fee increases and cap the amount of fee hikes at 10 percent.
The commission’s other ideas, such as more non-resident students and online courses, should also be encouraged and supported as money-savers.
The recent 32 percent fee increase was a shock to many students, who scrambled to find ways to come up with the money. With a well laid out plan, students will be better prepared to focus on the benefits of higher education, instead of panicking over payments. Increases should stay consistent if they must be implement at all. Regents should explore this particular option further.