Thursday’s vote could allow UC campuses to raise tuition fees each year, indefinitely – despite receiving additional money from the state. Student groups are outraged and major lawmakers oppose the move, but UC says it needs more money and financial aid will lessen the blow to students.
Prepare for the whiplash: After receiving $ 1.3 billion in new money from lawmakers this year, the University of California now wants to increase tuition fees for each new undergraduate class. Every year. Indefinitely.
Once the tuition fee increased for an incoming class, it would remain unchanged for six years for that class, allowing students to more reliably calculate the multi-year cost of a degree.
The UC board will vote on Thursday on a two-year tuition hike plan in the works that was first derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic but has since been resurrected.
UC officials predict that tuition and system-wide fees would increase by $ 534 in 2022-2023 and increase by a slightly smaller amount for each new class of undergraduate students.
The result is that by 2026-2027, California undergraduates entering UC are expected to pay $ 15,078 in annual tuition and fees statewide, or about $ 2,500 more than what state undergraduates are currently paying.
The proposal is complicated, dotted with inflation-indexed tuition hike estimates and peppered with various exemptions meant to cap what students ultimately owe. But what is certain is that this marks a radical change for UC: After doubling tuition fees during the Great Recession in response to the state’s drastic cuts, UC only increased fees. only once since 2011.
“I think (the tuition increase is) likely to pass even though I wouldn’t like it,” said Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and a voting member student of the Regents who will vote. for the first time at this meeting of the week.
Its dissent has powerful allies. Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Long Beach, and Speaker of the Senate pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, both leaders of the Legislature, oppose the tuition hike for the time being they told CalMatters in emails.
âFamilies have struggled during this pandemic and this year has been pretty tough for so many Californians,â said Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego.
UC President Michael V. Drake declined to be interviewed for this story. At the Regents meeting in May, Drake said the tuition fee plan “will help campuses preserve academic excellence and essential support services.”
âIt’s no secret that UC funding has been volatile for years.
His office argues that UC needs stable income from tuition fees to counter the state’s long trend of disinvestment. Four decades ago, the system received about 80% of the funding to educate students through state support. Today that share has shrunk to close to 40%, which is almost identical to the amount of income the system collects from tuition fees. The state’s massive injection of cash into UC this year does little to reverse this trend.
The UC President’s office predicts a cost increase totaling $ 2.1 billion by 2026-2027 on top of current spending, a shortfall it says needs to be addressed through tuition hikes and more money from the legislature. The new additional revenues would fund more hires of faculty, salary increases and benefits, as well as a host of student support services and programs aimed at increasing graduation rates.
And UC maintains that the proposed tuition fee model is ultimately better for all students.
Low-income students who do not pay tuition anyway because they qualify for financial aid would get even more money for books, accommodation, and food, since around 36% of the income from the higher tuition fees would be returned to student aid.
And with tuition only increasing once per graduating class and linked to inflation, the cost of attendance will be predictable and stable for high-income students paying full freight.
Specifics of the proposed tuition fee increase
The proposed plan would increase tuition fees for each new class of undergraduate students entering from 2022-2023. Every increase in tuition fees would be linked to inflation. Undergraduates would also pay a surcharge of 2% or less, which would be phased out over the next few years.
New and continuing students in state-funded graduate programs would see a different kind of tuition hike: theirs would be annual, rather than occurring once for each incoming class, and increasing with the increase in tuition fees. inflation from 2022-2023.
The proposal ties the growth in tuition fees to a three-year moving average of inflation. This prevents tuition fees from drastically changing if consumer prices soar.
The proposed hike would cap the growth in tuition fees at 6% each year. Another provision would increase tuition fees by a lower amount if state lawmakers increased their share of the UC budget by more than 5%. But this kind of increase is rare: state support for UC has grown by less than 4.6% per year after reaching 5% in 2014-15.
Zaragoza, the student regent, believes that a ceiling of 6% is still too high; it will push for a lower threshold. She wants trigger language in the regents’ proposal that would force UC to suspend tuition hikes in extreme cases like, say, a global pandemic. And she would like regents to be required to renew the plan regularly – at least once a decade.
“We are using the message of a ‘hike forever’,” said Josh Lewis, a rising senior at Berkeley and government relations president of the UC Student Association. The system-wide student group opposes any tuition hikes and is organizing a phalanx of students to protest the hikes proposed at this week’s Regents’ meeting. The association also submits comments in all student papers on the UC campus and has met with the regents.
Lewis said he wanted the state to step up support for UC instead of increasing tuition fees.
And the regents themselves are not united in their support. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who is regent, tweeted her opposition while noting how UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business tuition has skyrocketed since she attended in years. 1990.
But at least one influential lawmaker is comfortable with the UC plan. Assembly member Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento who chairs the budget subcommittee on education, said at a hearing in February that “moderate and predictable” increases in tuition fees like those that the regents consider as “sensible”.
There is at least one flaw in UC’s revenue increase arguments. California law gives the governor’s CFO the power to cut state funds for UC (and California State University) if the university increases tuition fees. Indeed, each increase in tuition fees means the state budget spends more on the Cal Grant, the state’s main student aid grant – something that a third of undergraduates in the l ‘UC receive, and that is automatically linked to what the UC charges for tuition.
Most students won’t actually pay
Currently, 56% of California undergraduates at UC pay no tuition fees due to a combination of state, federal, and university aid.
This does not change under the proposed UC tuition fee model. The UC calculates that students who are not in the wealthiest households will ultimately owe less overall university fees under this increase than if tuition fees remained stable. This paradox is due to the fact that UC plans to devote more than a third of the increase in tuition income to student financial aid. This money, along with federal and state grants, translates into savings of nearly $ 2,000 per year by 2028-2029 for students whose parents earn $ 120,000 or less.
Despite all this financial aid, students in need still fall through the cracks. There are students who live on cars and vans. A 2020 UC report found that 6% of undergraduates who receive a federal grant are still homeless.
For families with incomes of $ 150.00, UC’s tuition increase plan would result in additional tuition fees, reaching approximately $ 2,000 by 2028-2029 for undergraduates . These costs will increase even more for wealthier families who do not qualify for the state’s middle class scholarship.
The proposed tuition hike is essentially “a progressive tax,” said UC regent Cecilia Estolano, now president of the organization, who said she was undecided on the proposal at the May meeting. .
âYou’re going to charge well-off people a little more, but you’re going to make them a promise in return: everyone will have the faculty-to-staff ratio they expect from the University of California. “