Gov. Jerry Brown, center, attends a meeting of the Cal State governing board… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)
California's two public university systems retreated from various tuition hikes as Gov. Jerry Brown suggested the moves would be ill-timed coming just a week after voters approved a tax increase for education.
California State University trustees postponed action Tuesday on a plan to impose new student fees and University of California regents also agreed to shelve a proposal, scheduled for a vote Wednesday, to add supplemental fees to some professional degree programs.
Cal State's "incentive" fees were designed to encourage students to graduate more quickly, freeing space for new students. But Brown, who attended the meeting of the governing board in Long Beach, said the plan needed more study.
The governor also plans to attend the regents' meeting in San Francisco on Wednesday in a kind of victory lap for his Proposition 30 tax measure.
But he also carried a strong message to both systems.
"Right after the election is no time to be raising fees of any kind," the governor said, urging the universities to keep costs down and not pass them on to students. "Voters gave us a billion dollars in new revenues and now we have to use that very judiciously."
Students, he said, had been battered by the economy, successive years of tuition increases and large debt loads.
"The problem is we have a stratified society, those at the top are doing very well while those at the bottom are not doing well," he said. "I'm looking for segments to find ways of sharing the burden, but sharing according to the abilities people have."
Addressing the reduced class schedules that have made it difficult for students to progress toward graduation, Brown said universities might have to increasingly rely on online education. As governor, Brown is president of the Board of Trustees, but this was the first meeting he attended during his current term.
His timing was strategic: He acknowledged the support of students, trustees and faculty in working to pass Proposition 30, which raises $6 billion with a quarter-cent sales tax increase over four years and an income tax hike on high-income earners over seven years. Its failure would have triggered deep spending cuts to public education. After its victory, Cal State announced it would rescind a $249 per-semester tuition hike that took effect this fall, rolling it back to the 2011-12 cost of $5,472.
In opening remarks, board Chairman A. Robert Linscheid said he removed the fee proposal from the agenda to study its consequences further, in light of the passage of Proposition 30 and after hearing objections from students and others.
"The mission is still important, to free up space for other students, but there may be other avenues to get to that goal," Linscheid said.
Students expressed relief that the fee hikes were, at least temporarily, postponed.
"I'm really excited," said David Allison, a senior at Cal State San Bernardino who is president of the California State University Students Assn. "I hope this means they will look for ways to change behavior without raising fees on students."
The plan would have increased fees for students who accumulate more credits than they need to graduate, who carry more than a full load and who repeat courses. Officials said it would raise about $30 million in annual revenues, mainly by increasing enrollment at the system's 23 campuses.
Other students said they planned to continue with plans to hold a vigil late into the evening to keep pressure on trustees.
"Postponing this was one of our goals but ultimately, they need to get rid of this idea," said Miguel Garcia, 27, an anthropology major at the San Bernardino campus.
UC officials dropped consideration of a possible 20%, or $2,400, mid-year tuition hike for all students after Proposition 30 prevailed. But remaining on the agenda was the separate proposal to raise tuition next year for more than 50 graduate and professional degree programs in such areas as business, dentistry, law and social work.
Under the plan, the so-called professional degree supplemental tuition would have increased from 1.2% to 35%, depending on the campus and department. Most would have been 7% or lower.
Those supplemental fees are in addition to the basic $12,192 tuition. For example, the proposal would have raised the supplemental fee at UCLA's graduate business program to $28,052, an increase of $1,626; total tuition for that program would have been $40,244 a year.
The graduate nursing program at UC Irvine would have gone up to $10,440 with the supplemental fee, a $2,700 increase; total tuition would have been $22,632 under the plan.
According to a UC statement released Tuesday, the governor asked for "additional time to allow him to develop a better understanding of the policies and methodology" of the graduate and professional school charges.
Times staff writer Larry Gordon contributed to this report.