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Monday, March 4, 2024

The UC-AFT agreement should not increase tuition for incoming students

UC Davis needs to be transparent about allocation of funds

By OWEN RUDERMAN — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

The contract reached by the UC system and University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) in mid-November is a great step towards the fair treatment of lecturers. Recent research found that UC lecturers’ pay was considered low-income at six of the nine UC campuses. If the contract is ratified, lecturers would be guaranteed pay increases, paid leave and more. This is a tremendous step for untenured lecturers at UC, who must be compensated fairly for the incredible work that they do. But there remains a glaring question: Where is this money going to come from?

A 7% pay increase is nothing to scoff at, and with the number of lecturers teaching at UC, it adds up. Lecturers in the UC system teach about 30% of all classes, which means that thousands of lecturers are getting a pay increase. 

The UC Board of Regents had already voted in July 2021 to raise tuition for incoming students starting fall 2022, months before the lecturers’ contract was reached. UC President Michael Drake explained that the tuition hike can address the issues of classroom overcrowding and high student to faculty ratios. 

Research based on the Baumol hypothesis suggests that in response to wage increases, universities may increase enrollment rather than raise tuition. However, with Drake citing high student to faculty ratios as a problem to address, this doesn’t seem like an ideal option. 

Allow me to make one thing clear: This is not about students versus lecturers. In fact, it’s the opposite. We need to support one another to make sure the school system is the best it can be. Our lecturers are incredible and deserve to receive a livable wage. I can’t help but wonder though, how much is this pay increase going to impact future students?

In the posted contract details by UC-AFT, there is a lot of information about the new benefits for untenured staff at UC. However, there isn’t any mention of how the UC system is going to pay for the increases in pay and benefits, especially since the UC Board of Regents had already approved a plan to increase tuition gradually until 2027 before its agreement with lecturers. 

It’s entirely possible that incoming students don’t need to worry about any changes to tuition. When the agreement was reached, the school may have already done the math to ensure that students wouldn’t see any change. However, UC needs to be transparent about how lecturers’ pay will be increased. 

When the UC system was first created, tuition was free for California residents. While free tuition would be a long shot, we need to keep these principles in mind. College should be affordable, and schools having to pay lecturers a livable wage should not prevent new students from attending.

Just like the lecturers, we as students need to utilize the power that we hold, and we must demand transparency from the university. The UC-AFT agreement isn’t a bad omen for students —  it’s a beacon of hope, showing us that when we fight together, we can create real change.

Written by: Owen Ruderman — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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