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Fees for students may rise next fall

UC plans a 9.4% hike, not including books and housing. Cal State could increase 10%.

November 14, 2008|Larry Gordon | Gordon is a Times staff writer.

California's two public university systems are warning that student fees could increase about 10% next year, and maybe more, if the state's dire budget situation does not improve.

The 10-campus University of California released a report Thursday that projects a 9.4% hike for most in-state student fees. That would mean $662 more for undergraduates who are California residents, bringing their average bill to $8,670. That figure includes campus-specific charges but not housing, books and other expenses, which can add $12,000 to $14,000. Graduate and professional school fees would rise more steeply.

The 23-campus Cal State system recently said it would seek enough state funding to avoid a 10% student fee increase for the 2009-10 school year. If that does not succeed, average undergraduate fees for Cal State would rise by about $300 to $4,150, including campus charges but not housing and books.

The governing boards of UC and Cal State are scheduled to meet next week to discuss their budgets amid news of mounting state deficits and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's calls for new taxes and midyear spending cuts. The boards are likely to put off voting on fees until spring, however, and much will be in flux until then, officials said.

UC spokesman Brad Hayward said its proposed 9.4% increase met the university systems' agreement with the governor four years ago that annual fee hikes would be capped at 10% if the state provided enough funding each year for enrollment growth and basic needs. If the state continues to reduce UC's funding, Hayward warned, fees might rise more than 10%.

"It's possible but it's certainly not what we are looking for," he said.

"We recognize the national economic crisis has strained budgets for all families and that now is a difficult time for students to contemplate fee increases," Hayward said. "At the same time, students enroll at UC with an expectation for access to certain levels of academic quality and student services." Quality will decline without enough funding, he added.

Cal State spokeswoman Clara Potes-Fellow said the chances were "probably slim" that the state would provide enough funds to avoid a 10% fee increase. But she said Cal State would still ask Sacramento for the money.

Asked whether fees might go higher than 10%, Potes-Fellow said Cal State trustees "can't rule out anything in this difficult budget environment."

For the current school year, UC raised undergraduate fees by 7.4% and Cal State by 10%, triggering protests from students.

Lucero Chavez, president of the systemwide UC Student Assn., predicted more protests ahead because students are angry about fees growing so much year after year. "I think we saw in the voter turnout [in the presidential election] that students are ready to be mobilized," she said.

Officials for both universities also warned Thursday about possible enrollment problems next fall. UC said it might have to limit admission to its most popular campuses and send more students to those with extra space, typically Riverside and Merced. Cal State said it might have to raise high school grade-point requirements at some campuses and put more students on waiting lists.

UC and Cal State officials say they try to soften the effect of fee increases by setting aside about one-third of the extra revenues for larger grants for eligible students. In addition, national surveys show fees at Cal State are much lower than at comparable state schools nationwide and that UC's are about the average for research-oriented institutions.

With state budgets and college endowments around the country reeling, education experts are predicting substantial tuition and fee increases across the board next year. According to a recent College Board study, in-state fees at four-year public colleges nationwide averaged $6,585 this year, up 6.4% from the previous year. The average total including room and board was $14,333; California housing costs tend to be higher than other states'.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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