University of California students could face annual tuition increases of 8% to 16% over the next four years, possibly bringing the fee as high as $22,068 for the 2015-16 school year, according to a long-term budget plan the university unveiled Wednesday.
UC leaders said that the proposal was intended only as a guideline but that it would help students, parents and faculty to plan more realistically. This summer, the state budget crisis resulted in deeper than expected cuts to UC and a second tuition increase just weeks before the school year began.
"We need stability. We need sustainability. We need to be able to honor our commitments to our students, our employees and certainly our faculty," UC President Mark G. Yudof told the university's regents, who were meeting in San Francisco.
The regents are expected to discuss the proposal Thursday but will not vote on it until November at the earliest. Even if it is endorsed, the board will still decide each year whether to raise tuition for the next year's students.
UC will receive about $2.37 billion in state funding this year, $650 million less than last year. If the funding does not increase to help offset rising costs for pensions, healthcare, energy and salaries, 16% annual tuition hikes are likely, the plan says. If state funds rise 8% annually, tuition increases will be capped at 8%, rising over four years to $16,596, not including campus fees or room and board, the proposal projects. If state funding grows 4%, tuition would rise 12% annually, reaching $19,188 by 2015-16.
After back-to-back tuition boosts totaling more than $1,800 for this fall, UC's undergraduate tuition for California residents stands at $12,192. Room, board and campus fees can bring a student's total costs to about $31,000.
Student leaders and other critics said Wednesday they worried that the plan could give legislators an excuse not to increase funding to the university.
The result could be that four years of 16% tuition raises will be locked in, said Claudia Magana, the UC Santa Cruz student who is president of the systemwide UC Student Assn. "Rather than pressure the state, it could take pressure off," she said.
The proposal also calls for annual enrollment growth of about 1%, or about 2,200 more students each year. It does not specify how many of the additional students would come from out of state and pay the extra fees required of non-Californians. Recent decisions to increase the number of out-of-state students at UC have been controversial.
In an interview, Yudof said the 10-campus UC system needs a multi-year funding agreement with the state even though previous accords fell apart. He also countered critics' contention that he was giving away too much, too soon in the negotiations and said he wanted to avoid repeating what he called the recent budget chaos.
"I would hope the Legislature is interested in not only sustaining the university but making sure that the charges don't go too high," said Yudof, who recently returned to work full time after gallbladder surgery in July.
In other business, a regents committee approved plans for a study comparing the salaries of UC campus chancellors to those of university leaders across the nation. The move is partly a reaction to Gov. Jerry Brown's criticism of the $400,000 salary for the new president of San Diego State — $100,000 more than his predecessor — and Brown's contention that Cal State and UC should promote from within rather than hire expensive out-of-state administrators.
George Kieffer, vice chairman of the regents' compensation committee, said the study will address public concerns about high salaries and help UC keep talented people. "I want to make sure we are competitive and at the same time make sure we are not overpaying," he said.