UC tuition might jump 32% if tax proposal fails, official says

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Reporting from San Francisco -- University of California officials warned Wednesday that the 8% tuition increase UC students already face this fall may be dwarfed by an additional 32% midyear hike if Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for tax extensions is not approved.

Calling the idea a “nasty scenario,” UC President Mark G. Yudof said the university must be prepared in case the proposed tax extensions are not approved and state funding for the 10-campus system is cut $1 billion next year, double what it would be otherwise. “It’s not desirable. But people have to understand the grave consequences to this university,” Yudof said at a UC regents meeting in San Francisco.

Basic tuition for UC undergraduates who are California residents is scheduled to rise 8% to about $11,100 this fall, not including room, board and other fees. Yudof promised that the university would not seek a midyear increase if its reduction in state funding remains, as it now stands, at $500 million. The additional 32% hike would bring tuition to about $14,800 a year and surely spark student protests.


The threat of such an increase is partly intended to influence debate in Sacramento. This week’s news that state revenues may come in $6.6 billion higher than anticipated may hurt Brown’s chances of winning the Republican support he needs for the tax extensions, analysts said. And while Brown’s revised budget, released Monday, called for about half of the expected windfall to go to public elementary and high schools, none of it would go to UC or Cal State.

The regents also heard economic projections beyond the coming school year. Depending on various scenarios of state support and enrollment growth starting in fall 2012, UC financial experts said tuition may have to be raised from 8% to 20% annually for four consecutive years. But the regents emphasized that no decisions were yet being made.

Meanwhile, Yudof said he hopes to expand the university’s financial aid program with additional grants to students from middle-income families. For the coming school year, under UC’s existing plan, many students with family incomes of up to $80,000 are expected to have their tuition covered through federal tax credits and state and federal aid. Under Yudof’s proposal, the income threshold would rise to $90,000 for the following year. And in an effort to help the next tier of households, families that earn up to $120,000 may be able to receive grants covering half of tuition, he said.

More controversial was a proposal to allow UC campuses to charge differential levels of tuition, breaking the tradition of a uniform tuition for all undergraduates and introducing student demand as a pricing influence.

Regent Bonnie Reiss said she was open to giving campus chancellors a measure of control over tuition because they have, she said, “the greatest sense of marketability on the ground.” But Regent Odessa Johnson opposed the idea, predicting that variable tuition would taint the reputations of the schools that charge less. “Students will feel they are getting a lower-class education,” she said.

Also Wednesday, the regents approved Dorothy Leland, who has been president of Georgia College, a public campus in Milledgeville, Ga., to be the next chancellor of 6-year-old UC Merced. Leland, who grew up in the Southern California farming community of Fillmore, earned a doctorate in philosophy at Purdue University in Indiana and taught there, as well as at Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Cruz. On July 1, she succeeds Sung-Mo “Steve” Kang, who is returning to teaching. Leland will be paid $310,000 a year and will receive relocation benefits and housing.


The regents also elected former film industry executive Sherry Lansing to head the board for the next year. Lansing, a regent since 1999 and a philanthropist in the health and education fields, most recently served as the board’s vice chairwoman. She succeeds Russell Gould, the former director of the state Department of Finance.