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UC, Cal State approve fee hikes

Costs will climb at least 7% in the fall. The universities say the increases make up for shortfalls in funding.

March 15, 2007|Larry Gordon and Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writers

University students will pay 10% more in fees at Cal State campuses in the fall and at least 7% more in the UC system to make up for what officials say are shortfalls in state funding.

The raises were approved Wednesday over the protests of students, who complained that charges have nearly doubled in a decade without regard to the escalating costs of textbooks and housing.4

But education leaders stressed that there was no fee hike last year and that the 23 Cal States and the 10 University of California campuses remain a bargain compared with other states' schools and especially compared with private colleges. They also said financial aid would cover extra costs for needy students.

The Cal State Board of Trustees, which met in Long Beach, voted to raise basic full-time undergraduate fees by $252, to an average of $3,451 for the year.

That overall figure will include $2,772 in universitywide fees and $679, on average, in campus-based charges. Room, board and books are extra. Cal State graduate fees would increase $312 to $3,414.

The UC Board of Regents, gathered at UCLA, raised fees 7% for most students. That amounts to $435 for undergraduates, who will pay an average of $7,347 in the next academic year, not including housing and books.

Most UC graduate students will pay $483 more, or an average of $9,481 before other costs. Fees will rise 10% at five UC law and business schools.

The moves affect a large swath of students: the Cal State system enrolls about 417,000 students and UC about 209,000. And not surprisingly, student reaction was angry.

The fee increase amounts to "the systematic destruction of our public education system," Payam Shahfari, a senior at Cal State Fullerton, told the trustees. A business management major, he said that those costs, along with books, parking permits and housing, were pushing out students and that financial aid was not keeping up.

At the UC meeting, dozens of students stood and raised their fists in a silent protest, then chanted "No fee increase now" as they left the meeting.

Administrators at both systems said their decisions were forced by fiscal shortfalls in Sacramento, and they pledged to roll back all or parts of the hikes if more money is appropriated by the Legislature and governor. Last year, proposals for 8% fee raises were canceled after the final state budget gave higher education extra funds.

Officials stress that no needy student will be denied an education because a third of the new fees charges will go toward financial aid.

About 146,000 of the 417,000 Cal State students will not pay any increase, said Allison Jones, assistant vice chancellor for student services and academic affairs. And UC said 43% of its undergraduates would not have to pay any of it.

The only Cal State trustee to vote against the fee plan was Melinda Guzman, a Sacramento-based attorney. She said she wanted the university to hire an outside consultant to examine all spending and revenue and determine whether the fee raise "is the best and only course of action."

But Roberta Achtenberg, chairwoman of the Cal State board, said the university could not wait if it were to keep all its programs alive and afford pay raises, including whatever contract emerges from the currently stalled talks with the faculty union.

"We need those resources, including student fees, to sustain an outstanding university," she said.

Several UC regents expressed frustration at the need to impose a significant fee hike this year. The UC board approved the increase by a vote of 13 to 6.

"It's the most agonizing decision the regents face," said UC President Robert C. Dynes, who recommended the hike and voted for it. "Nobody wants to raise fees."

"The reality is the system is under-funded," said regents board Chairman Richard Blum, a San Francisco investment manager and husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). He voted for the increase.

State officials say that many other states have shifted more of the cost of college to the students than California has.

Cal State says it charges about half of the average fees at 15 comparable universities nationwide. For example, the State University of New York at Albany set student fees at $6,727, and Georgia State University at $4,818 this year.

UC administrators point out that its undergraduate fees compare favorably with other public research institutions, such as the University of Virginia ($8,043 this year) and the University of Michigan ($9,723).

But student activists note that the cost of living in California is significantly higher, especially at urban campuses, and UC students pay more overall than public university students in other states. More students will have to work longer hours at jobs and borrow more, they say.

"The high fees, high financial aid model is not working. Students have to face this problem every day," said Bill Shiebler, president of the University of California Student Assn.

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