Napolitano seeks undergraduate tuition freeze for 10 campus UC system

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University of California President Janet Napolitano laid out a broad policy agenda on Wednesday at the university regents meeting in San Francisco. Her proposals could have a deep impact on students and faculty alike at the 10 campus system

Napolitano proposed a tuition freeze for undergraduates for the 2014-2015 school year in her first address to the Board of Regents as head of the UC system.

As for scholarly research, Napolitano said she wants a more entrepreneurial approach to university start-ups and patents, and UC campuses, she told the policy-making Board of Regents, should lead the way in energy conservation.

"Then UC will demonstrate once again to the nation and beyond the fundamental and unique value of a world-class public research university," Napolitano said.

According to  UC Irvine Professor Peter Krapp, these ideas are not new; but he cautiously supports Napolitano's plans - with reservations - until she reveals how she'll carry out her improvements.

"I'm skeptical about being able to take more students in, take more transfer students and not raise the budget accordingly. Because, if you don't grow the budget but you do grow enrollment, then you're cheapening the education," said Krapp.

Detailing her ideas, Napolitano told the board she wants the UC system to seek new ways to streamline the transfer process from community colleges; to become a zero-net energy consumer by 2025; and to improve the process so research innovations hit the market more quickly.

Napolitano said the tuition freeze would give the university system time to create a new fee policy.

"Tuition goes right to the heart of accessibility and affordability — two of the university's guiding stars. We need to figure out, in the real world in which we live, how to bring clarity to, and reduce volatility in, the tuition-setting process," she said.

Governor Jerry Brown's 2013/2014 budget already requires that the UC system keep tuition rates flat, in order to get new money from the state. The university educates nearly a quarter of a million students each year.

UCLA student body president John Joanino said current and future students shouldn't have to shoulder the weight of funding deficits and added "We need Napolitano, we need UC officials to really pressure the state for new revenue." 

Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security, spent the past six weeks in her new job visiting many of the system's 10 campuses. She is the first female president of the University of California.

Her attendance at a regents meeting just a day before was met with protest. As CBS5 reports, many of the protesters were high school students who said Napolitano is the wrong choice and will instill fear in immigrant students because she oversaw a large number of deportations in her previous position as the Secretary of Homeland Security.​​​

UC spokesperson Brooke Converse told The Daily Californian that the university has no plans to formally respond to the protest, which she said was roughly similar in size to that of past demonstrations but that the crowd was much younger.

When she was hired in the summer, students and professors expressed doubts, because Napolitano was an outsider to both higher education and to California. But you couldn't tell from her proposals, said UCLA doctoral student Nicole Robinson.

"Her speech demonstrated a depth of knowledge that was admirable; she's clearly doing her homework, and she's keeping up with all the assignments that get thrown at her as she visits the different campuses," Robinson said.

This story has been updated.

With contributions from AP and KPCC staff

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