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California

UC goes on offensive to sell tuition increase as opposition builds

University of California administrators went on an offensive Thursday to sell their proposal to raise tuition by as much as 5% in each of the next five years but faced opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown, legislative leaders and student activists.

UC President Janet Napolitano sent out emails and other messages to alumni, faculty and donors seeking their support for her plan, which would end a three-year-long freeze on UC tuition, help pay for higher pension and salary costs and increase the enrollment of California students.

Unless state funding for UC rises enough to offset those increases, her plan calls for tuition for California undergraduates to rise next year to $12,804, not including room, board and books. By the 2019-20 school year, that could increase to $15,564.

Her plan won the support Thursday of UC chancellors and faculty leaders while important state legislative leaders such as Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins and Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon expressed deep reservations.

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Some officials said they anticipated a lengthy set of difficult negotiations over the next few months with Brown, who is a regent. The governor already announced his opposition to the tuition hikes and is pushing for UC to reduce its spending instead. He has said that a promised 4% boost in state general revenue funds for UC over the next two years is contingent on flat tuition.

Atkins, who also is a UC regent, said she will vote against the plan when it is presented at the UC Board of Regents’ meeting Nov. 19-20.

“While the state’s commitment to higher education absolutely needs to be backed up with adequate resources, fee increases are not the solution, and California families have already endured enough of them. There are other places to look for funds rather than fee increases,” she said in a statement.

On the other hand, the chancellors of all 10 UC campuses announced their strong support for it. “The plan addresses our obligation to students and their families to provide them with the best education possible at the most affordable price. It is predictable and fair, and it allows families to plan ahead,” they said in a joint statement.

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Mary Gilly, who is the chair of the systemwide UC Faculty Senate and faculty representative at the regents, described the proposed tuition hikes as “unfortunate but necessary” to protect the university’s academic excellence and keep it accessible to students.

Most professors would have preferred to avoid the increase if the state spent significantly more on higher education, she said. But since that is probably not likely, “the plan is a good option,” said Gilly, who is a UC Irvine management professor.

Asked about prospects for a public debate between the governor and Napolitano at the regents gathering, Gilly said: “It should be a very interesting regents’ meeting.”

Follow me @larrygordonlat.


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