For the first time in six years, California's public universities are tentatively proposing a tuition increase.
The increase would mean a $270 per year hike at Cal State campuses and a $300 per year hike at UC schools. Administrators and spokespeople for the combined 33 campuses are hoping that money will help graduation rates and academic initiatives.
Unsurprisingly, students aren't happy. According to a recent EdSource article, the proposed hike has spurred protests, and debate over higher education costs is likely to continue even after the negotiations are finalized, which will possibly happen in June.
To get a better picture of how these increases will impact California's two biggest university systems, A Martinez held a discussion with UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez and Erika Perez, a fifth-year student at UC Riverside and UC Student Association action committee chair.
On alternatives to tuition hikes:
PEREZ: [They could] put a cap on senior management, administrative salary caps. The UC always talks about investments, why don't they look for those alternative sources of revenue?
VAZQUEZ: We [both agree] that the state could step up in support of higher education. UC has tightened its belt by cutting costs, saving and generating millions of dollars in revenue, we are doing more with less. Those efforts have made the university leaner and more efficient. Some of the cutbacks, especially at the campus level, have negatively impacted the student experience on campus and we believe that it's time to make this investment to preserve the quality of a UC education.
On possible changes to financial aid:
VAZQUEZ: Two-thirds of California undergraduates would have the fee increase fully covered by grants and scholarships and most would see their financial aid increase by more than the proposed increase. Currently, 54 percent of California undergraduates have all their tuition and fees covered by financial aid and that will continue to be the case.
PEREZ: We the students, see financial aid as a band-aid solution to make the UC affordable in the first place. Not all students qualify for financial aid. As a low-income student, I qualify for financial aid. But that's not the case for students who are in the middle-income class. So this is not going to apply to all UC students, it's only going to apply to some students.
On trust between students and universities:
VAZQUEZ: The university will work with the campus chancellors to make sure that tuition revenue would be used in ways that benefit students. The chancellors will be responsible for directing funds towards the highest priority needs of their specific campuses. I believe that students should hold the university and the campuses accountable for how those funds would be used . . . I believe there needs to be an open line of communication between the administration and students so that we are aware of their priorities and concerns.
PEREZ: We need transparency in every project that will affect us, the students. Unfortunately we have seen [a lot] of problems with our chancellors. We need to examine how we do things, how we recruit, how we hire. . .because at the end of the day, we should be working together to get money that we need from the state and hold people accountable together and by being inclusive.
*This interview has been edited for clarity