Reporting from San Francisco — The basic cost of an undergraduate education at the University of California will rise 8%, or $822, next school year after a regents vote Thursday, although officials said that expanded financial aid would shield many students from paying the higher amount.
The UC Board of Regents, meeting in San Francisco, voted 15 to 5 for the increase, together with a one-year reprieve for most families earning less than $120,000 annually. The regents also changed the name of the educational charges to students from "fees" to "tuition," a linguistic acknowledgment that the amount has tripled in the last decade.
Starting next fall, undergraduates who receive no aid will face about $12,150 per year in tuition and campus fees and an average of about $16,000 more for living expenses and books.
Thursday's actions came with some emotional debate from regents and other speakers but without the angry protests and arrests that accompanied Wednesday's preliminary discussions. Only about 25 students attended Thursday's meeting, and there was no picketing or chanting inside or outside the UC San Francisco meeting hall.
Along with the tuition increase, the regents approved an expanded financial aid program that, with federal tax credits and state and federal aid, means that many students with annual family income of less than $80,000 will pay no tuition next year. The program had covered families earning less than $70,000. Substantial property holdings or other family assets could disqualify students from the aid, officials said.
Regents opposed to the tuition increase said they were pleased with the new financial aid provisions but that many middle-income families will still face a tough time.
"Those are the ones who are silently crying. They are not at the microphone," said alumni representative Darek DeFreece, who voted against the measure. "They are at work trying to figure out how they are going to pay for it all."
Also voting no were board members Charlene Zettel and Odessa Johnson, student regent Jesse Cheng and Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a regent by virtue of his office. Several said they wanted UC administrators to first find more efficiencies throughout the 10-campus system.
In response, UC President Mark G. Yudof said he had worked hard to contain the tuition jump to a single digit and that it was needed, among other things, to help pay for higher pension costs and to avoid reducing course offerings. "I'd prefer not to do it at all," Yudof told reporters after the vote, "but the truth is we are enabling our least well-off students to attend the university."
After years of steep cuts in state funding, UC this year received a boost of $370 million in state and federal revenue. But Yudof said the university's state funding still is well below where it was two years ago and that there is no guarantee of sustaining this year's level, given California's budget crisis. The tuition increase is expected to net UC $116 million, after about a third of undergraduate and half of graduate student increases are put toward financial aid.
UC's undergraduate tuition next year will be in the middle range of public universities to which it compares itself, officials said. That cost will be less than the universities of Michigan and Illinois but more than the University of Virginia and the State University of New York at Buffalo. UC is "a great buy," Yudof contended.
Many UC graduate and professional schools will see similar tuition hikes, although some will be much higher. Some UC programs in law and business already cost well over $40,000 a year, not including room and board.
Before Thursday's vote, several UC students made heartfelt speeches against the increases. Ratha Lai, a fourth-year UC Berkeley student from Bellflower, said students face unmanageable loan burdens. Adding to that will be "another nail in the coffin of thousands of students being buried alive by the rising costs of attending a public university," she said.
But when the vote came, the small audience was silent. That contrasted with Wednesday's boisterous outdoor rally of about 300 people, at which 13 were arrested and four police officers were slightly injured. Students accused officers of overreacting by using pepper spray and were especially critical of a UC policeman who drew his sidearm after he was allegedly assaulted with his own baton.
Yudof said Thursday that police had acted appropriately during the protest.