Update: UC Regents show little stomach for plan to double tuition

Students walk near Sather Gate on the University of California at Berkeley campus.
Students walk near Sather Gate on the University of California at Berkeley campus.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Tuition at the University of California could rise by as much as 16 percent a year for the next four years. That’s the plan on the UC Regents’ table. It generated heated debate at their meeting in San Francisco on Thursday. The regents are still trying to figure out how to plug a $2.5 billion dollar hole.

The amount UC students and their families might pay depends on whether California agrees to approve more money for the 10-campus system. UC President Mark Yudof says the regents are trying to persuade state lawmakers to restore billions of dollars to the system’s budget.

"And say we understand the new reality but if you can give us a way forward out of the fog we can keep prices down for students and we can preserve the quality of this great university. If you don’t do that then there are going to be consequences," he said.

If the state won’t budge, UC tuition would rise by 16 percent. Undergraduates would pay $22,000— double what they pay for tuition now, not counting room and board.

Summer Ko: I almost had a heart attack!" said Summer Ko, a UC Irvine student who flew to the regents meeting from Long Beach to speak against the tuition hikes. The 20-year old, who’s studying business accounting, recently called up her student account online.

"And saw that my tuition had gone up $800 in a quarter. My mom had sticker shock and said ‘Oh my God, how are we going to do this?’" she said.

Ko says a lot of her peers have had to drop out of school because they can no longer afford the tuition.

"I have no faith in Sacramento to do the right thing," said Regent Richard Blum, who added that another tuition hike won’t convince state lawmakers to part with cash because they don’t have any to spare. Blum argued regents should focus on talking to people who can afford to write checks.

"Tell me why you don’t go to a Chevron, why you don’t go to an Apple, a Cisco, a Google — all these companies are sitting with billions of dollars they don’t know what to do with," he said.

Regent Eddie Island said tuition hikes have been the path of least resistance and the wrong path for the University of California.

"We have a mandate to educate millions of underrepresented minority kids and we can’t get there from here with high student fees. That model does not work," he said.

The regents didn’t decide on the proposal to raise student tuition. Instead, they discussed other ways to raise money — floating a ballot initiative, convincing citizens to lobby state lawmakers, attracting corporate donations for scholarships. Those and other ideas may end up in a budget proposal the regents plan to address in November.