Opinion: Is a $26,000 UC education still a deal?


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That’s $26,000 for a single year at a University of California campus, not the four usually needed to graduate. The UC Board of Regents voted today to increase basic education fees for undergraduates by 32% to more than $10,000 for the 20010-11 academic year. Throw in the roughly $16,000 per year required for room, board and books, and the UC system fees approach $30,000 per year -- and feel a lot like the cost of an Ivy League education with few of the perks. (None of this is to say, mind you, that the regents won’t be forced to raise fees again in 2010, with the state facing a massive budget deficit of $21 billion over the next year and a half.)

My days as a UC Berkeley undergraduate, from 2000-05, saw a series of fee increases, spurred in part by an agreement in 2004 struck between then-university system President Robert C. Dynes and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The so-called compact (it wasn’t a contract, much to Sacramento’s benefit) promised long-term, predictable increases in state funding for the UC system in exchange for annual student fee hikes. I’ll admit that fees when I started school in 2000 seemed generously low (they were less than $4,000 per year), so when they started going up a few years later there was some mild resistance by students but a consensus nonetheless that most of us could afford to pay more. With each fee increase came the mantra that UC was still very much a bargain for students, a contention that rang true at the time.


But I wonder: With fees having doubled in less than a decade, is a UC education still a deal? Is there a student-fee ceiling at which it isn’t? I’m interested in hearing your views, especially if you’re a student at a UC campus or a parent of a student. Feel free to post your thoughts below.

-- Paul Thornton