UC Berkeley student Dior Sweeney is shown on the campus earlier this month.… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )
Reporting from San Francisco -- Students appealed Wednesday to University of California regents not to proceed with a proposed second tuition increase for the coming school year but conceded that the fight against the higher fees is probably lost.
Several students addressing the regents at their meeting in San Francisco said families had not been given enough warning to come up with the additional $1,068 the proposed increase would require and urged university officials to look for the funds elsewhere. Regents will vote on the increase Thursday.
The speakers expressed particular concern for middle-income students who may not be eligible for financial aid and who, according to a new report, make up a declining share of enrollment at the 10-campus university.
Claudia Magana, president of UC's system-wide student association, said the late timing of the proposed hike, along with its size, is causing widespread concern and distress. "UC students have been hit too hard in too short of a time period," Magana, a UC Santa Cruz senior, told the regents.
The proposed 9.6% increase would be on top of a previously approved 8% boost that is also scheduled to go into effect for the fall. Combined, the two would mean an increase of $1,818 over the 2010-11 figure and bring system-wide undergraduate tuition for California residents to $12,192 plus an average of $1,026 for campus-based fees. Room, board, books and other costs can bring the total for an undergraduate to attend a UC campus to about $31,000 annually.
The regents are widely expected to vote for the increase in response to a recent state budget that cut $150 million more than previously planned from UC's annual state funding. That would bring the reduction to $650 million in all, with the threat of $100 million more if state revenue does not meet projections.
Sherry Lansing, the regents chairwoman, acknowledged that the timing so close to the fall term was unfortunate but blamed the Legislature's late action. "It was sprung on us as well," she said, adding that UC was left with painful choices.
Matt Abularach, a fourth-year political science major at UCLA, described the hikes as "sad and really disappointing" and said UC was becoming more like a private school. He and other students contended that UC administrators were passively reacting to state funding levels instead of trying to find new revenue, such as a proposal to dedicate a new tax on oil and gas drilling to higher education.
In contrast to raucous protests over previous tuition hikes, however, there were no demonstrations Wednesday, a quiet attributed to the summer vacation.
UC President Mark G. Yudof, who proposed the tuition increase last week, did not attend the meeting because he is recovering from emergency gallbladder surgery, officials said.
Financial aid is expected to cover the increase for needy students. Regents also are likely to waive it for many students whose family income is less than $120,000 and who do not have large assets. But student leaders said they worry that the respite will be for just one year and that such students may be hit with an especially steep retroactive tuition hike in 2012.
UC administrators have expressed concern that fewer middle-income students are enrolling. According to a new UC report covering the 10 years up to 2009-10, the proportions of undergraduate students from families earning less than $50,000 and more than $149,000 a year grew. But the figures for middle-income students declined; in the $50,000 to $99,000 range, from 26% to 23% of the student body, and in the $99,000 to $149,000 category, from 24% to 18%.
The annual Accountability Report cited several possible causes for the drop, including sharply rising tuition. The change "could be due to middle-class families perceiving that UC is no longer affordable," it stated.