University of California officials Wednesday said they will proceed with plans to seek a 9.3% hike in undergraduate student fees for next school year and warned that faculty and staff layoffs might be needed if state financing measures fail in the May election and the budget deficit worsens.
The increase, amounting to $662, would bring the average basic cost for an undergraduate UC education to $8,720 a year for California residents, not including room, board and books. With those costs included, the annual price tag for students living in dorms would be about $25,000. Graduate and professional school fees also are expected to rise at least 9.3%.
UC regents are expected to approve the fee increase at a meeting at UC San Diego next week, despite student complaints that the cost of a UC education has doubled over the last decade. The recession also has made it harder for families to pay, student leaders said.
In a conference call with reporters, UC President Mark G. Yudof said that most students would not feel the fee hike because of increases expected in tax credits and in financial aid, financed in part by the federal stimulus package. “The lion’s share of this is paid for,” Yudof said, adding that the fee increase should be viewed in the context of recent UC austerities such as freezing top executives’ pay and cutting freshman enrollment by 6%.
Lucero Chavez, a UC Berkeley law student and president of the UC Student Assn., said there was no guarantee that financial aid increases would hold true beyond the coming school year. She also criticized UC officials for assuming that families “can navigate their way through the system and apply and get this financial aid.”
Nevertheless, given the state’s economic emergency, Chavez said she would not actively oppose the measure next week but instead planned to urge regents to reform their long-term policies on fees.
UC regents have often said that the overall cost of a UC education is less than that of similar public research universities nationwide. Student leaders challenge that, citing California’s comparatively higher living costs.
One sure vote against the fee increase will be cast by D’Artagnan Scorza, the student representative on the Board of Regents. Scorza, a UCLA graduate student in education, said he wants the regents to look first for more staff and salary reductions and increases in charitable fundraising.
“From where I stand, I believe there is more we can do before we raise fees,” he said.
In the telephone briefing, Yudof promised that students would not face a second fee increase for the 2009-10 school year, even if the state budget deteriorates after next month’s election and UC receives deeper budget cuts than already proposed. But he said other painful measures may be ahead for the 10-campus system, which enrolls about 220,000 students.
“If all that occurs, you will see layoffs, you will see furloughs, you will see salary reductions, either temporary or permanent,” he said. “I think you will see some pretty Draconian stuff.”
In other matters, the regents next week are expected to review the first systemwide accountability report, which details such subjects as campus graduation rates, ethnic diversity and research income. Yudof, who became UC president last year, pushed for the report, which is similar to one he helped create in his previous post as head of the University of Texas system. Among other things, it shows that 59% of UC students are graduating in four years, up from 36% in the early ‘90s.
The 23-campus Cal State system is expected next month to seek a 10%, or $300, increase in student fees for the coming school year, which would bring average undergraduate fees to $4,150, not including housing and books.