UC shelves plan to charge engineering, business undergrads more

University of California officials have decided to shelve, at least for now, a controversial proposal to charge undergraduate engineering and business students $900 more a year than those in other majors. The plan, which had been scheduled for discussion and a possible vote at next month’s regents meeting, has been postponed for further study, a university spokesman said Thursday.

UC administrators “felt they wanted to take more time to examine it,” spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said. But he said the idea was not dead and could be brought to the regents in a revised form at a later date.

Faculty leaders said they had urged the delay. Among the concerns about the plan was whether, as critics contend, the proposed surcharges would drive students away from engineering and business majors even if extra financial aid was provided.

UC President Mark G. Yudof had suggested the higher fees for upper-division undergraduates in those two majors as part of a larger response to reduced state funding for the university. The regents are still scheduled to vote next month on a proposal to raise systemwide fees for all undergraduates by $2,514 by next fall to about $10,300, not including room, board and campus-based extras. The engineering and business surcharges would have been on top of that.


Regent Joanne Kozberg said Thursday that she was pleased the surcharge proposal had been delayed for further study, especially regarding its potential effect on engineering enrollment. “I would hate to put something in motion that would be counterproductive,” she said. “I would be concerned that this could hinder efforts to bring more engineers to our workforce.”

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a UC regent by virtue of his office, opposes the differential fees and welcomed news of the delay. “A permanent postponement of a really stupid policy is in order here,” said Garamendi, who also plans to argue against the general fee increase.

UC has long charged a variety of fees for graduate and professional programs, with some students, including those in dentistry and law, paying much more than others. But it traditionally charged all undergraduates the same basic education rates. About half of the public research universities in the nation charge extra for at least one undergraduate major, according to a recent study. Engineering and business often are chosen because faculty salaries in those areas are generally higher than in other subjects and graduates tend to land better-paying jobs.

A Times article Monday detailing the proposal triggered interest -- and criticism of the plan -- from throughout the state. Engineering students said they were planning to protest the plan at the regents’ November meeting.