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Student leaders oppose fee hikes

The governor's budget calls for increases of 7% at UC and 10% at Cal State campuses. One university activist says the plan is `a betrayal.'

January 12, 2007|Larry Gordon | Times Staff Writer

Student leaders at California's two public university systems vowed Thursday to work toward rolling back Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal to raise fees next year by about 7% at UC campuses and 10% at Cal States.

Under the governor's plan, undergraduate UC student fees for state residents would rise about $495 to about $7,347 next year, including some individual campus costs but not including housing, books and other expenses. Cal State students would see such basic fees go up $252 to $3,451.

The proposal, which faces reviews by the Legislature and academic governing boards, would keep community college costs at $20 a credit. Those dropped last year from $26.

Bill Shiebler, president of the UC Student Assn., called the proposed fee increases "a betrayal." Last year, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature used extra revenues to cancel expected 8% hikes, and that should be done again, he said.

"Students are frustrated and angry about a budget that does not prioritize higher education," Shiebler, a UC Santa Barbara undergraduate, said, adding that students will lobby lawmakers and UC regents about the fees.

The governor stresses that he is keeping to his 2004 compact with the public universities that fees will rise no more than 10% any year and that enrollments could grow 2.5% annually. His budget statement stressed that UC and Cal State fees will remain below averages for comparable schools throughout the country and that one-third of the fee increases are expected to go to financial aid.

Andrew LaFlamme, the student representative on the California State University Board of Trustees, said he had mixed feelings. Although the governor's plan maintains the compact, LaFlamme said, he and other students will encourage the Legislature to find money to prevent the increases. "Ideally that would be the best situation," the Cal State Stanislaus graduate student said.

The UC regents and Cal State trustees are both expected to review and possibly vote on the fee increases in March.

UC system spokesman Brad Hayward said regents would have to balance a desire to keep education affordable with the state's need to close a deficit. He stressed that no student should be scared away by the "sticker price" because so much financial aid is available.

Cal State spokeswoman Clara Potes-Fellow said the trustees still were hoping that fee increases would be avoided. "We believe this is still very early in the budget process and a lot can happen," she said.

Meanwhile, student activists were busy Thursday on a related financial issue: student loans.

The new Democratic majority in Congress plans today to introduce legislation that would gradually cut interest rates in half on some federally subsidized student loans over the next five years.

Supporting that idea, the California Public Interest Research Group, a student organization, issued a study calculating that the Californians who receive the subsidized Stafford loans on average graduate with $15,125 in debt to that program and could save between $2,490 and $4,830 over the course of their loans if the proposal passes.

The rate reduction from 6.8% to 3.4% "will make college more accessible and affordable for millions of American students," the report said.

Tom Kiley, a spokesman for the House Education and Labor Committee in Washington, said the measure is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives next week.

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