Education

UC postpones vote on raising tuition — again

In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, speaks at the University of California, San Diego. Napolitano calls a 3 percent tuition increase for the UC system
In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, speaks at the University of California, San Diego. Napolitano calls a 3 percent tuition increase for the UC system "less than we anticipated under the framework we established with the governor."
Lenny Ignelzi/AP

The University of California Board of Regents' original plans to vote Wednesday on the proposed increase of $342, or 2.7 percent, in annual tuition and fees for the 2018-19 academic year was postponed until May.

UC President Janet Napolitano said after hearing students' concerns, the governing body was "better advised to defer voting on this item until its May meeting."

A couple dozen opponents of tuition increases used the public comment portion of Wednesday morning’s University of California Regents meeting in San Francisco to tell administrators the increases would have a dire impact.

“Despite the assurances from the U.C. that middle income and low income students will be protected from the rising cost of higher education, the reality doesn’t bear that out,” said Max Lubin, a graduate student at UC Berkeley.

He was referring to comments by administrators that the 2.7 percent tuition increase would be accompanied by increases in financial aid.

“Often times I have received my financial aid a week before the week of instruction which means I have gotten evicted numerous times, I’ve been unable to pay for groceries and support myself, as a student who works two jobs to attend this university,” said Rizza Estacio, a U.C. Berkeley student.

Increasing tax revenue is leading to stable finances for the state but the U.C. students who spoke to administrators described situations in which rising living costs are putting many students in situations of financial crisis that would make it hard to absorb the tuition increase.

“I don’t receive any financial aid… while $342 may seem like a drop in the bucket to many, it means a lot to me; $342 is a semester of textbooks, or three months of groceries, or two round trip plane tickets to go home for winter break and spring break,” said Kylie Murdock, a U.C. Berkeley student.

While students voiced their opposition to the increases, several said they wanted to work with university administrators to obtain more state funding to avoid the hikes.

Several called on regents to delay the decision until March. U.C. Regents Chair George Kieffer said the increases would be considered in the late afternoon on Wednesday.

The University of California is proposing to raise tuition at its 10 campuses for the second consecutive year, a move it says will compensate for state funding cuts at a time of record-high enrollment.

Many students have vocally opposed the increase saying higher tuition puts too much burden on students already struggling to pay for their educations.

If approved, the cost for California residents who currently pay $12,630 in tuition and fees would increase to $12,972. Out-of-state students would pay an additional $978, or an increase of 3.5 percent, bringing their total for annual tuition and fees to $28,992.

The regents approved a similar increase last January, which was the first tuition hike since 2011.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a 3 percent increase in base funding for the UC system in his 2018-19 budget plan, down from a 4 percent increase in previous years, and urged university officials to "live within their means."

Napolitano called the 3 percent increase "less than we anticipated under the framework we established with the governor." She said in a statement the UC was committed to its plan to add 2,000 California undergraduates and 500 graduate students in fall 2018.

"The campuses have asked for this increase because they need it at a time when California undergraduate enrollment is at an all-time high," UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said. The additional revenue from tuition hikes would go toward hiring more faculty members, creating new courses and funding additional mental health services.

Doan said increased financial aid would cover the higher costs for roughly 100,000 students, more than half of the system's 180,000 California resident undergraduates, who already pay no tuition.

The UC Student Association has collected nearly 3,000 signatures in an online petition titled, "Stop the UC Tuition Hike," said student organizer Maxwell Lubin. The petition says, "As UC students, we demand that the regents stop the tuition hike, and that the California legislature fully fund the UC system."

This story has been updated.