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UC students aim to 'shut down the vote' on tuition increase for nonresidents at regents meeting

UC students aim to 'shut down the vote' on tuition increase for nonresidents at regents meeting
University of California students protest a proposed tuition increase at the Board of Regents meeting in January at UC San Francisco. ((Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times))

University of California students from across the state plan to converge on the Board of Regents meeting Wednesday at UCLA to protest a proposal to raise tuition on out-of-state students.

In their “shut down the vote” campaign, they will ask the regents to reject a proposed 3.5% increase in the extra tuition that nonresident students pay. If approved, that supplemental tuition would rise to $28,992 for the 2018-19 school year from $28,014.

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The 3.5% increase would raise $34.8 million. UC officials say nonresident tuition dollars have helped pay for more courses at UCLA, academic support and advising at UC Berkeley and programs to raise graduation rates at UC San Diego.

Regents will not vote on a proposed 2.7% increase in tuition and fees for California students until May. In their January meeting, they postponed that vote to allow more time to lobby the Legislature for additional funding.

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Chloe Pan, a UCLA student government leader, said many students were “infuriated” by the regents’ decision to vote separately on tuition increases for California and nonresident students.

“It’s an attempt to pit communities against each other,” said Pan, a senior from Michigan majoring in international development and Asian American studies.

Pan said nonresident students such as her have contributed to the community. She said she has worked as a campus organizer on sexual misconduct and college affordability, helped found UCLA’s first residential community focused on public service and served on a student advisory board to a campus vice chancellor.

She said many more students than usual plan to attend the meeting Wednesday because it will be held at UCLA, which is far more accessible to them than UC San Francisco, a graduate campus where most regents’ meetings are held. Students also plan to speak about other pressing needs, she said, including housing, financial aid and higher pay for student workers.

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Board Chairman George Kieffer said the Legislature was unlikely to provide more funding to avoid a tuition increase for nonresident students. State policymakers, along with UC officials, “absolutely favor California students,” he said, adding that the extra nonresident tuition dollars help all students. The full board will vote on the proposal Thursday.

After state officials cut UC funding by one-third following the 2008 recession, campuses began enrolling more students from other states and countries to replace the lost revenue. From fall 2009 to fall 2017, the number of nonresident undergraduates nearly quadrupled, to 37,217 from 9,552, while the number of Californians rose from 167,900 to 179,530, according to UC data.

To avoid a tuition increase for California students next year, UC students, faculty, administrators, alumni and regents have launched a unified effort to lobby for more state funding.

They are asking legislators for an extra $140 million: $70 million in lieu of a tuition increase, $10 million to add California students, $25 million to ease overcrowding and a one-time $35 million in aid to cover maintenance of classrooms, labs and other facilities that had been deferred.

The extra money is needed especially, they argue, because Gov. Jerry Brown reduced his proposed increase to 3% this year from 4% in recent years. Brown, who opposes a tuition increase, said UC officials should cut spending rather than get more money.

To persuade legislators otherwise, UC students have made three trips to Sacramento this week and plan a major phone banking effort Wednesday at UC Berkeley. Sarah Abdeshahian, a Berkeley sophomore and student activist, said they will be luring students into calling their legislators.

“The No. 1 way to get students to phone bank is free pizza, and that’s exactly what we’ll be offering them,” she said.

Kieffer and others said the lobbying seems to be making a difference. A bipartisan coalition of legislators, flanked by university students and officials, unveiled a proposal this week to give the UC system $197 million more this year. That’s more than double Brown’s proposed funding increase.

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The regents also plan to examine the university’s costs and financial aid operations, as well as UC President Janet Napolitano’s office budget and program initiatives. A state audit last year called on the regents to strengthen their oversight of her office.

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