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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Editorial: Unfair burden on students

At a meeting this week in San Francisco, the UC Board of Regents will vote on a plan to raise student fees by 8 percent.

The proposed $822 fee hike is an inappropriate and insulting solution to the university’s ongoing budget problems.

Students are already struggling under the huge burden of the 32 percent fee increase for this year. Many have had to take on additional employment, giving them less time to focus on their education. Some have chosen to leave UC or take as many classes as possible at the community college level, diminishing the learning experience. Vast numbers of students are taking on larger and larger loan burdens in order to pay for school.

UC President Mark Yudof has said the university does not take fee increases lightly. However, it’s getting harder and harder for even the most sympathetic student to believe him.

Last November, when the regents were voting on the 32 percent increase, all of the talk coming out of the Office of the President was that this was a time of shared pain and shared sacrifice. The message was that students weren’t the only ones hurting. All faculty and staff were subject to pay cuts up to 10 percent of their annual salary and each campus was cutting millions more out of their budgets.

It’s interesting how that message is nowhere to be found this fall. Faculty and staff are no longer subject to furloughs or pay cuts. Those ended this past summer. The “shared pain” concept has apparently been thrown out the window, and now it’s up to students to sacrifice.

A major feature in this round of fee hikes is that students with annual family incomes under $120,000 will be “protected” from this increase for at least a year. But even as the university tries to soften the blow for students, a look at the fine print reveals it’s more an attempt to save face than anything.

For example, for students whose families earn between $80,000 and $120,000 annually, the tuition-freeze only lasts for the next year. These students will have to pay this extra 8 percent a year later, plus whatever additional fee increases the regents approve between now and then. 

Furthermore, it’s misleading for university officials to claim that low-income students will not feel the impact of the fee increases. While it is true that financial aid covers fees for students with family incomes below $80,000, the fact is that much of UC financial aid is granted in the form of loans that must be repaid. So while low-income students may not be feeling the pain today or this year, they will certainly have large loan burdens that will be costing them for years to come. 

The regents desperately need to find a solution that doesn’t put the burden of the university’s budget problems on the very group that the university is supposed to be serving – students. We have already sacrificed so much, and to continue to ask for more is unfair and inappropriate.

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