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UC Considers Raising Its Fees by Up to 40% : Education: Governor has proposed a 20% hike. State policy is that costs shouldn’t rise more than 10% a year.

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The University of California is considering an increase in student fees of as much as 40%, double the already-controversial hike proposed in the governor’s budget, according to UC administrators, student leaders and legislative sources. However, UC officials stress that no decision has been made and that none will be formally announced prior to the Regents meeting Feb. 14.

“I’ve heard that 20% is a given and the question is how much above 20% it will be,” said one high-ranking admissions officer in the UC system who requested anonymity.

A well-placed source on the Legislature’s staff also said UC budget planners are talking about raises between 20% and 40%. “They have very few alternatives out there,” said the source, citing the state’s weakening financial situation and resulting cuts in education funding.

Some legislators and student leaders warn that talk of a possible 40% increase could be a strategic ploy by UC administrators to make the 20% increase more palatable or to shake loose more money from the Legislature.

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But Lee Butterfield, director of legislative affairs for the UC Student Assn., said he doesn’t believe the university “is playing that game.” Butterfield said high-ranking UC budget officials told him “in no uncertain terms, that it’s going to be more than 20%" and possibly as high as 40%.

The UC Regents voted in November to raise fees only 3% for 1991-92, but that was before the governor’s austere budget was announced earlier this month. The 20% increase proposed by Gov. Pete Wilson would move annual UC education fees for state residents from the current $1,624 to $1,949, not including room, board, books and some activity charges. A 40% raise would bring that to $2,273.

Lawrence C. Hershman, UC’s associate vice president for the budget, said “every option imaginable,” including larger fee increases, staff layoffs and enrollment limits, is being studied to close the $295-million gap between what the regents asked from the state and the $2.191 billion offered by Wilson. In contrast to the usual bargaining over how much the UC budget should grow, the governor’s plan would give the UC system $2.2 million less than it is receiving this year.

Asked whether the university would raise fees above 20%, Hershman responded that “everything is being considered above and below that,” although he conceded “the chances of going below that are very slim.” UC President David P. Gardner will not make a decision until shortly before the Feb. 14 meeting in San Francisco, Hershman said.

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It has been state policy that higher education fees should not rise more than 10% in any year. Susan Polan, president of the UC Student Assn., which represents 166,500 students, predicted “a major battle” in trying to maintain that rule because she said she thinks Gardner will propose a 40% increase.

However, Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who is chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said talk about increasing fees more than 20% may just be “sounding the alarm” about the university’s perilous fiscal situation. “I can’t conceive of the Legislature and governor approving anything higher than 20%,” Hayden said.

Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, also said any fee hike proposal higher than 20% would face controversy in the Legislature. “Even the 20% will,” he said.

UC officials are warning that starting in 1992, the university may have to trim back its traditional guarantee to place the top academic 12.5% of the state’s high school graduates at one of the system’s eight undergraduate campuses. In addition, plans to build a campus in the San Joaquin Valley may be delayed because of budget problems.

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If the fees go higher than already proposed, UC officials are sure to point out that about a fifth of those new revenues will go to scholarships. They also are likely to stress that even a fee of $2,273 will keep UC’s pricing in the middle range of top quality public institutions. But student leaders and admissions officers still fear that the price will discourage middle- and low-income students from attending UC.

Meanwhile, the governor also proposed that fees at the 20 Cal State campuses rise 20%. That $156 increase would bring the annual cost for a full-time Cal State student who is a state resident to $936, excluding room, board and books. Colleen Bentley-Adler, a Cal State spokeswoman, said the system does not want to raise fees more than 20% but hasn’t ruled it out.

The Cal State trustees will discuss the fees at their March meeting. Some sources say that Cal State will watch the UC debate and follow the UC lead.


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