Governor, Legislature fight UC tuition hike

Three plans detail alternatives to price increase

Both the California governor and Legislature want to stop the University of California (UC) tuition hike—but cannot agree how to go about it.

In November, UC regents voted 14-7 to increase tuition by up to 28% in the next five years. Under the plan, in-state tuition could rise from its current rate of $12,192 to as high as $15,564 by the 2019-2020 academic year. One-third of money raised will fund financial aid programs.

UC officials are quick to note that only 30% of in-state undergraduates pay full tuition, and approximately half pay no tuition at all after accounting for financial aid and tax credits.

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Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system, says the increases are required to help pay for rising compensation costs and to expand enrollment by 5,000 students over five years, but has noted that additional funding from the state could have alleviated the need for tuition increases.

Specifically, Napolitano said an annual 4% funding increase proposed by Brown was inadequate to prevent tuition increases.

This year, UC received $2.64 billion from the state general fund revenue—$460 million less than seven years ago.

None of the parties has authority to make regents cancel the tuition increase, but they do have political leverage in the form of state funding.

University of California ends three-year tuition freeze

The governor's plan

Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a member of the UC Board of Regents, has pressed his peers to adopt cost-saving measures, such as more online courses, less nonessential research, more community college transfers, fewer in-state freshmen, and heavier professor teaching loads.

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Additionally, the governor has warned UC that additional state funding is contingent on tuition staying frozen. Brown will address the system's financial status in his budget to be released in January, according to officials.

The Assembly's plan

Under a plan put forward by California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), UC would receive an extra $50 million in state funding. The proposal also:

  • Requires UC to maintain existing financial aid levels and increases Cal Grant financial aid;
  • Cuts fees by up to 20% in the upcoming academic year for Middle Class Scholarship programs;
  • Caps UC enrollment of out-of-state students at the current level and increases California student enrollment by 10,000 in the next five years; and
  • Increases out-of-state tuition by $5,000 to generate an extra $100 million each year.

Next year, the system's budget should be built from zero—requiring officials to analyze every line item—rather than basing it off previous years' budgets, says Atkins, whose plan has bipartisan support.

Rep. Young Kim (R-Fullerton) also proposed a bill freezing public institutions' tuition provided a temporary state tax increase remains in effect.

Senate plan

Democratic senators, led by Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) proposed expanding enrollment in the UC and Cal State systems and rewarding students who are on track to graduate in four years with grants.

The plan would cost $342 million at first and $434 million the subsequent year, pulling $580 million over three years from the Middle Class Scholarship program and $156 million from the general fund for two years and $66 million the third to pay for the changes. List tuition for out-of-state students would also jump 17%.

The proposed plan also:

  • Raises UC and Cal State enrollment by 5,000 and 10,500 respectively, costing an extra $113 million annually;
  • Adds $7.5 million in courses and counseling services to each UC and Cal State to improve completion rates;
  • Motivates Cal State students to carry at least 15 credits by providing up to $4,500 in "completion incentive grants;"
  • Adds 7,500 Cal Grant competitive awards for non-traditional, older students;
  • Blocks the 11% cut to Cal Grants, affecting approximately 29,000 students;
  • Encourages individual and corporate investment in the College Access Tax Credit Fund to double Cal Grant Access Awards; and
  • Phases out the Middle Class Scholarship program by not allowing any new students to enter it (Mason et. al, Los Angeles Times, 12/11).

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