How to balance budget and mission? State senator says shift burden out of state.

Official argues higher tuition for out-of-state students will protect in-state students

The leader of the California State Senate has suggested increasing out-of-state tuition for the University of California System (UC) as a way to avoid the across-the-board tuition hikes that system officials proposed earlier this month.

Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system, said the increases were required to help pay for rising compensation costs and to expand enrollment by 5,000 students over five years. Under the proposal, in-state tuition could rise from its current rate of $12,192 to as high as $15,564 by the 2019-2020 academic year.

Read the background story: University of California ends three-year tuition freeze

UC is semi-autonomous, so it could raise tuition without government approval. However, the legislature and governor control the system's yearly funding—giving them some leverage over UC's decision.

Shifting the burden to out-of-state students

According to a new proposal from Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), UC should raise tuition for out-of-state students to spare California residents a tuition increase.

In a letter to Napolitano, De León argues "California's university system is one of the premier higher education systems in the world, and we should require that non-resident students pay a premium to attend it." The number of out-of-state freshmen at UC has more than doubled since 2009—rising from 6% to 20%.

Currently, out-of-state students pay about $23,000 more than in-state-students. However, other states with prestigious public systems charge even more for out-of-state tuition. For example, Virginia's out-of-state tuition is nearly $4,000 higher than California's.

UC staying the course

Since Napolitano announced the increases, Democratic governor Jerry Brown has gradually hardened his opposition to the plan. He has threatened to alter his own funding plan for UC if the system implements Napolitano's proposed changes.

Related: Capturing alternative revenues

In fact, even De León's out-of-state tuition plan may not appease the governor. H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the governor's Department of Finance, says "we've made our position clear: that whether it's in-state or out-of-state, tuition needs to remain level for four years, at the level it was in 2011-2012."

For its part, UC seems unmoved by the political maneuvering surrounding the proposal. "What was looked at was different rates of increase for out-of-state students, and what was settled on is what is being presented to the regents," says Steve Montiel, a spokesman for the UC system (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).

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