Propsed UC system tuition increase stirs controversy among students

The University of California president’s proposal to increase tuition by 5 percent over the next five years, which is scheduled for a Nov. 19 vote, has drawn opposition from students and concern within the California State University system.

The proposal, announced Nov. 6, would result in an added cost of $612 to students for the 2015-2016 fiscal year alone according to a press release from President Janet Napolitano’s office.

Caitlin Quinn, external affairs vice president of the Associated Students at UC Berkeley, opposed Napolitano’s proposal and said the hikes would make it more difficult for students to obtain higher education.

“My initial reaction was shock, betrayal and disgust,” Quinn said. “Steady increases of up to 5 percent are not feasible for many California families. Another $600 next year simply is not within their reach.”

SF State President Leslie E. Wong worried that limited space at SF State coupled with these tuition hikes would hamper students’ ability of receiving an education.

“Those are the issues being discussed,” Wong said. “What do we do if demand goes up and, as is the case now, we have no room?”

The latest data show that 446,530 students were enrolled in the CSU system in Fall 2013 and 223,359 in the UC system in 2012. Tuition for an academic year in the CSU in 2011 cost $5,472 and has remained the same, compared to the UC’s $11,160.

Computer science major Moaan Ahmed did not know how to feel on the proposal, but said it should not deter students who want an education.

“I think generally people are just going to deal with it,” Ahmed said. “Students can pay for a 5 percent increase if they take scholarships take more loans.”

Nursing major Geraldine Cabrera thought the proposed increases would generate more enrollment in the CSU system which may hamper timely graduation for SF State students. Cabrera said having taken classes in a community college prior to enrolling at SF State in 2011 lessened her course work but worries that increased enrollment could create competition for classes at the CSU level.

“That would negatively impact us because more people would be coming in and classes would be getting full with people trying to graduate on time,” Cabrera said. “It’s a horrible cycle.”

Napolitano said the new long-term stability plan would provide the funding universities need to cover student cost such as housing, textbooks and supplies that have not been addressed by the state. If approved by the Board of Regents, the plan is expected to increase enrollment, maintain the university’s financial aid program and shorten graduation time.

The proposal breaks away from the California’s 2014 Five-Year Infrastructure Plan, which allocates funding for state-funded universities on the conditions that tuition is not increased. Tuition and fees for undergraduate studies have not increased since 2012, according to data from the UC system.

Gov. Jerry Brown outlined predictable funding for maintenance over the next five years under the conditions that universities push for affordability, increase degree completion rates and freeze tuition increases according to H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs for the California Department of Finance. Palmer said the proposed increases were not justified.

“It’s just a proposal, but the administration’s commitment to education has been known from the start,” Palmer said. “The governor has always been opposed to increases to tuition for students.”

The University of California Student Association, a collection of students and student government organizations from the UC system, voiced their opposition to Napolitano’s announcement, claiming it to be a political move by the university to acquire more state funding. The association also said the university left students out of the decision-making process.

“UCSA views the plan proposed by UCOP as one that does not prioritize students, but rather holds them hostage for the future of their education,” the association said in a Nov. 6 press release. “Instead of using students as political pawns, the UC and Regents should consider partnering with students on a meaningful level to advocate to the state for more funding.”

The UCSA is expected to release details of a demonstration planned for Nov. 19 urging the board to reject the measure, according to their Communications Director Bridget Botelho.