Sherry Lansing, chairwoman of the UC regents, speaks at a regents meeting… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )
Reporting from San Francisco -- The University of California regents on Thursday raised tuition 9.6% for the fall, a controversial second increase that students decried as too large and too late for a school year that is just weeks away.
The $1,068 hike passed by the board came on the heels of a previously approved 8% boost that will also take effect this fall. Regents said the latest increase was necessary after steep reductions to UC funding in the new state budget, and most said it was preferable to staff layoffs and course reductions.
Regent Bonnie Reiss seemed to speak for many at the board's San Francisco meeting when she voted for the increase with what she described as "sadness and disgust."
"I hate that we have been forced by our state politicians to raise tuition, but I hate even more the possibility of letting UC slide into becoming a second-rate institution," Reiss said. The measure passed by a vote of 14 to 4.
Together, the two increases mean students will pay $1,818 more in tuition than they did last year, and bring basic undergraduate tuition for California residents to $12,192 a year. The amount reaches $13,218 when average campus-based fees are included. Room, board, books and other charges will bring the total for an undergraduate to attend UC to more than $31,000 for the coming school year.
"It isn't fair," said Ahmed Mostafa, a fourth-year political science major and student government leader at UC Santa Barbara. "It's definitely going to be hard for students."
The recently approved state budget cut funding for UC and for the Cal State University system by $650 million each, $150 million more than anticipated for each system.
But UC officials contend that the university's deficit is closer to $1 billion, with such costs as retirement and health plans, and that the tuition increases cover only a fourth of the shortfall. They said that financial aid and other measures will shield more than half of UC's undergraduates from any tuition increase for the coming school year.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a regent because of his elective office, was among those voting against the increase.
"Here we are putting once again a nail in the coffin of the middle class because that's who gets hurt," said Newsom. His vote, he said, was intended to send a message to legislators that "the state needs to own up to its responsibility." Regents Eddie Island and George Marcus and student regent Alfredo Morels Jr. also voted against the measure.
About 20 students and employees addressed the regents meeting to argue against the fee hike and pleaded with the board to take other steps instead. They noted that UC tuition has more than tripled over the last decade. But unlike past meetings about tuition increases, there were no major demonstrations and no disruptions.
Leigh Mason, a fourth-year student and student government leader at UC San Diego, said the timing so close to the fall term will have families scrambling and coming up short. "For a family and student to find that is not only hard but for some impossible," said Mason, of San Jose. "Why not go to each UC and cut some overhead before coming to us for more revenue?"
Officials of the 10-campus UC system say financial aid and tax credits will fully cover the tuition for many students from families with incomes below $80,000 a year. The two increases will also be waived this coming school year for many families earning less than $120,000 annually, they said.
Still, the regents granted a very large pay increase to Mark Laret, chief executive officer of UC San Francisco's medical center, to counter an out-of-state recruitment offer. Laret's $195,000 raise and incentives of $100,000 to $400,000 annually will bring his total compensation to more than $1.2 million next year and to $1.5 million in 2014.
Labor activists denounced the salary boost, but UC administrators said the raise would come from hospital revenue and not state funds or tuition money. UCLA's top hospital executive, David Feinberg, received a large pay raise last year, bringing his annual compensation to $1.3 million.
"It's totally outrageous," Mario Fuentes, a union organizer for UCLA custodians and service workers, said of the Laret pay. Fuentes, who took part in a UC workers protest in Los Angeles Thursday, said approving the raise on the same day as the tuition increase showed that UC is out of touch with the lives of most Californians.
The new state budget warns that UC and Cal State could each face further $100-million cuts later in the year if state revenues fall short, and UC officials say that a third tuition hike might result. Earlier this week, the Cal State system raised tuition 12%, on top of a previous 10% increase for the fall.