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THE STATE BUDGET CRISIS / HIGHER EDUCATION

UC and Cal State students would face stiff hikes in fees

January 11, 2008|Larry Gordon and Daniela Perdomo | Times Staff Writers

California's two enormous public university systems could face student fee increases, enrollment caps, reduced class offerings and possible layoffs of part-time instructors if the governor's deficit-cutting budget is adopted.

The plan calls for most student fees to rise by 10% at the 23-campus Cal State system and by 7.4% at the 10-campus UC system. That would bring basic undergraduate fees for California residents to about $3,797 at Cal State campuses and $8,007 at UC schools, not including housing and food. Graduate students would pay more.

But the governor and university officials say those increases could go even higher as the UC and Cal State governing boards debate the issues in coming months.

"I think people are going to ask the question: Is 7% high enough, or what would 10% generate? At this stage, I believe everything is open," UC President Robert C. Dynes said. Although fees still would be lower than the national average, critics note that costs have risen more than 90% for Cal State and UC undergraduates since 2002.

Monica Renteria, 18, a Cal State Los Angeles freshman, said some students would leave school or transfer to community colleges. "I don't really think it's a good idea," she said of fee increases.

Faculty leaders denounced the plan. "The loss, in the end, would not only be dollars but the loss of the hope and optimism about the future," said California Faculty Assn. President Lillian Taiz, a Cal State Los Angeles professor.

At community colleges, which enroll 2.6 million students, fees would remain $20 a credit, considered the lowest in the nation.

The budget proposal will quickly affect some Cal State applicants. Many Cal State schools usually keep application periods open until late winter, and some into summer. But Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed said he is ordering all campuses to close application windows Feb. 1, even if targets for the fall are not reached. "We've got to shut it off," he said. Cal State, which enrolls about 450,000 full- and part-time students, might not be able to accommodate an anticipated 10,000 additional students in the fall, Reed said. He is concerned about the effect on minority and low-income students.

"During economic hard times, we need more people to go to college so they can be better prepared and get a better job," Reed said.

UC enrolls about 220,000 students, and Dynes said he has no immediate plans to restrict fall enrollment, although UC regents may want to discuss doing so.

Chancellor Diane Woodruff of the California Community Colleges said she feared that there might not be room for 52,000 of the new students projected to enroll at the 109 colleges next fall.

Higher education leaders are predicting cuts in class offerings and campus maintenance, and painful negotiations with employee unions. The governor would trim $1.1 billion from what UC, Cal State and community colleges estimate they need for next year. The governor's office contends that it upholds Schwarzenegger's 2004 "compact" promising steady, modest enrollment growth at UC and Cal State, with fees rising no more than 10% a year.

The budget suggests ending community college courses with low enrollments, among other things. But Mark Drummond, chancellor of the L.A. Community Colleges District, said such cuts would be difficult because most outdated courses already are gone, and it would be wrong to eliminate "low-volume" programs in nursing and occupational therapy. "They're some of the ones we need most," he said.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

daniela.perdomo@latimes.com

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