For the first time in four years, UC leaders are proposing tuition increases — as much as 5% in each of the next five years — to help cover rising costs and to expand the enrollment of California students.
For undergraduates who are California residents, tuition next year could rise to $12,804, not including room, board and books. By the 2019-20 school year, that could increase to $15,564.
UC needs more money to help cover rising costs of retirement benefits, fund recent pay increases in employee contract settlements, hire more faculty and raise the number of California undergraduates by 5,000 over five years from the current 166,250, according to the proposal being formally released Thursday.
Given all those pressures and goals, a tuition freeze could not continue into a fourth year, UC system President Janet Napolitano said.
“The three-year hiatus was about as long as was wise,” said Napolitano, who became UC president just over a year ago after serving as U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and Arizona governor.
Napolitano said tuition increases could be reduced or even eliminated in all or some of the years if state funding for UC rises above the 4% annual increases currently anticipated. But a major hurdle is the opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown, who objects to the increases.
If the state doesn't increase its UC spending, Napolitano said, she wanted to provide the 10-campus university and its 238,400 students a more dependable, longer-range and moderate schedule of increases. This comes in contrast to the steeper and erratic increases imposed on students before tuition was frozen for the last three years, she said.
The proposed series of 5% increases “is the worst-case scenario for California students and their families, but it is a very predictable scenario,” she said in an interview.
The proposal is scheduled to be debated and voted on by the UC regents at their Nov. 19-20 meeting in San Francisco, a gathering that could attract sizable student protests if history is repeated. Key regents said they expect the board will approve the plan.
Brown, who serves on the regents board, won voter approval for tax increases two years ago that helped make the tuition freeze possible.
“The govenor remains opposed to a tuition hike on students. Increased funding for UC in the governor’s budget is in fact contingent on tuition remaining flat,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance, speaking on behalf of the Brown administration.
Palmer said that in exchange for no tuition increases, Brown had committed to raise UC and Cal State funding by 5% each for two years starting in 2013-14 and then 4% for two more years through 2016-17. Asked what the governor would do if the regents raise tuition, Palmer said: “We are not going to get ahead of what the regents are going to or not going to do.”
The proposal is sure to face some student opposition. Even before Napolitano's plan was detailed, the UC Student Assn. last week began a petition drive asking the regents to continue the freeze or to reduce tuition. “We have the right to seek long-term, sustainable funding sources that take the burden off students, and not only freeze tuition, but roll back tuition,” the online petition said.
Including various campus charges, room, board and books, the annual cost of a UC education now can total more than $30,000 for California residents; the growing number of students from other states and nations pay about $23,000 in addition to that.
The maximum 5% increases would translate into somewhat larger dollar amounts in each subsequent year after 2015-16: $642, $672, $702 and $744.
Officials, however, note that only about 30% of UC undergraduates from California pay the full amount of their current $12,192 tuition, and the rest receive some financial aid. With federal, state and university grants and tax credits, about half have all their tuition covered, UC said.
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