In January I attended a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus. I talked to any regent who would listen about the hardships brought on by the constant fee (or tuition) increases. Since 2002, fees have increased 79% for undergraduates, 84% for graduate students (that’s me!) and up to 131% for professional students. I talked to a few regents, but those were the ones who are allies for students. Most don’t seem to get it. Would you consider $400-500 more a year that big a deal when you travel on your personal jet* to the board meetings?
Yesterday at UCLA, the regents voted 13-6 to tentatively increase fees by 7% for graduate and professional students and 10% for UC law and business students (link to LA Times story).
Regents and UC administrators argue that they need to raise fees to maintain quality and competitiveness at the 10 campuses across the system. Chris Edley, dean of the Boalt Law School at UC Berkeley, wants to increase fees at Boalt to move the law school up in the rankings from #8 to #5 (see Monday’s LA Times article on law school fees. Administrators in Oakland at the UC Office of the President downplay the fee increases by saying that low income students’ will not be burdened by the fee increase because they will get additional financial aid to cover the 7% increase.
Student activists don’t buy that argument. While the Regents ate lunch, students held a press conference outside of UCLA’s Covel Commons and voiced their opposition to the fee increases. I attended and listened to students from several UC campuses talk about how the fee increases would hurt them, their families and their peers. Students are tired of the fee increases and point out that low income students will need to work more hours and take out more in loans to cover the increasing costs. Middle income students and their families might be squeezed out by the rising costs, but are not eligible for certain forms of financial aid.
What’s more troubling is that higher education in California isn’t just becoming increasingly unaffordable for the 208,000 UC students, but also for the thousands who attend California State University Campuses. The Board of Trustees for the CSU also voted to increase fees by 10%.
It’s times like this when I miss the 90s. Back then our fees actually decreased. Now we’re lucky if our fees remain stagnant for a year or more.
*Many of the Regents are very wealthy people. Their reimbursement forms include line items for normal stuff like airfare and mileage in a personal vehicle. It also includes mileage in a personal aircraft.
[Note: photo from a rally at UC Berkeley in November 2005.]