UC Raises Tuition 28% Despite Widespread Disapproval And Student Protests

The University of California’s governing body, the Board of Regents, has approved a tuition raise of 5% during each of the next five years, which will be an increase of 28% over current tuition. This comes despite Governor Jerry Brown, several members of the state legislatures, and the California caucus in Congress all voicing their disagreement with the raise. Students also protested at every UC campus.

UC, which has 10 campuses, as well as multiple medical and law schools, claims to need the tuition raise for a number of financial reasons, but questions remain. Why are administrators taking a large raise if the school is in financial trouble? Why won’t UC comply with a law ordering disclosure of financial information? And finally, why is Janet Napolitano, the president of UC, pretending like tuition hikes are the only revenue option on the table?

Students were bound to be outraged over the tuition raise. Recently, the university chancellors (presidents of each university) had pay raises of up to 20% on what are $380,000 to $485,000 salaries, plus benefits. Even though administrators defend this action by saying pay is set to be competitive with the market, it’s a sharp slap to students facing higher tuition.

More suspiciously, Napolitano has resisted compliance with a new law, AB94, requiring UC to disclose spending, until after the Board of Regents voted to raise tuition, as I reported recently:

Refusal to comply with the law has also made it difficult for UC to get additional state funding, which is another option to cover increased costs. Governor Brown suggested a 4% increase over the next two years if tuition isn’t raised, but Napolitano said it wouldn’t be enough. There are questions surrounding the efficiency of money used by UC, and the lack of transparency hasn’t helped their case — especially because transparency has been ordered by the legislature and governor.

Maximilian Cotterill, a student government member and participant in the protests at UCSD, told me, “I think we generally agree that the state needs to restore funding to the UC — we should be talking about tuition rollbacks if anything. On the other hand I think a lot of us don’t feel that UC is being efficient or honest with their use of money. How can they simultaneously claim that there is a budget shortfall when they raise the salaries of top admin who already make $400k plus, along with substantive housing and car allowances?”

The refusal of administration to give answers is telling. Tuition hikes aren’t the only option on the table. The governor and members of the state legislature — including some who are, in fact, regents — have voiced their disagreement with the proposed raise. Four members of Congress also signed a letter to the regents in opposition of the hikes, Reps. Brownley, Bera, Peters, and Lofgren, and Rep. John Garamendi, who is a former regent, has also voiced disagreement.

If the current plan for tuition stays in place, the price per year for undergraduates will increase by $3,000. That’s an additional $12,000 in fees over four years. Not only that, but students that are freshmen right now will be facing the majority of the increase by the time they leave — that means families will be paying thousands more than expected only a short time in the future.

Maximilian Cotterill, mentioned above as one of the UCSD protesters, told me “It will cost me $612 more next year to attend, which is almost 2 months of rent.” He might have to take out additional loans, in which case interest is added to the cost of raised tuition. Out-of-state students will see a raise three times as high.

I asked Abraham Galván, organizer of the UCR protests and student speaker at the Regents meeting, what he thought of Napolitano’s refusal to comply with AB94 while pushing for raised tuition:

In terms of Napolitano’s failure to comply with AB94, I find this move extremely suspicious. The main argument that we students as well as the state have had against the UC is that it isn’t spending its money as effectively as possible and a tuition hike is not yet the last resort. By not disclosing the mandated information, the UC is not being transparent and does not allow students or other interested parties evaluat the UC’s argument that it is being cost-effective.

The university is being less than honest, and this move will hurt students. Occupy-style protests have continued at some of the campuses, and there has been one arrest.

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