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UC likely to hike tuition for some grad programs

Tuition for law, nursing and other professional studies could go higher, while costs for undergraduates are expected to be unchanged.

January 18, 2013|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • Gov. Jerry Brown attends Wednesday's regents meeting. On Thursday, Brown delivered two lengthy speeches about how technology, global economic competition and other factors will change higher education and suggested that UC must lower its spending.
Gov. Jerry Brown attends Wednesday's regents meeting. On Thursday,… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO — While Gov. Jerry Brown urged the University of California to consider basic changes in how it operates, UC officials on Thursday said that undergraduate tuition probably will not rise next year.

However, fees for more than 50 professional graduate school programs, such as law and nursing, may increase, leaders of the 10-campus system said.

UC President Mark G. Yudof said it was "very unlikely" that undergraduate tuition, now about $12,200 before room, board and campus fees, would go higher next year if much of Brown's budget plan is adopted. After voters' approval of Proposition 30's tax increases, UC would receive about 5%, or $125 million, more in state funds next year.

In November, the UC regents were set to increase fees for 56 professional degree programs in a range from 1.5% to 35%, but postponed action at Brown's request. On Thursday, Yudof said those programs still want the extra $20 million the increased fees would generate, but he will try to "cut it down by engaging in some economies."

Assembly Speaker John Pérez warned UC not to raise those fees and not to ask the Legislature for money to avoid such hikes. He said high costs already drive away potential graduate students and those who enroll "are getting hamstrung by the amount of debt they graduate with." UC should instead adopt such savings as not giving raises to top executives, he said.

Most of those proposed professional school increases were less than 10%, ranging from $144 to $3,256. Four nursing programs would have seen 35%, or $2,700, hikes, bringing their total tuition and basic fees to $22,632. Some law programs would be more than $40,000 a year and pharmacy more than $34,000, not including books and living costs.

Thursday's regents meeting at a UC San Francisco facility was unusual in that all four state constitutional officers who are regents attended and remained for discussions. Besides Brown and Pérez, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson were present.

Brown delivered two lengthy speeches about how technology, global economic competition and other factors will change higher education and suggested that UC must lower its spending.

He emphasized, however, that he was trying to help the university, not criticize it. His remarks, in typical Brown style, included references to the history of ancient Rome (the governor was a classics major at UC Berkeley) and to recent readings about the credentials of 19th century Harvard professors. Without offering specific proposals, Brown said UC must lower instruction costs, get students to graduate faster, reduce amenities and examine how much it pays high-ranking administrators.

He also said he is wary about supporting UC Riverside's new medical school, which is opening this summer mainly with non-UC funding but which campus officials said will require state money later.

At a news conference, Brown said there are no easy answers on how to reform universities.

"This is a collective body with incredible intelligence and it's that incredible intelligence that can keep the university great even while it changes its cost structure," the governor said. "The model of higher education is broke. That's absolutely true. Going forward, what we do about it, what kind of design change is feasible, that remains to be seen."

UC administrators said the system could save $80 million annually by restructuring about $2 billion in debt, extending some payments out from 15 years to 30 years. That plan, which requires legislative approval, has raised concerns about higher price tags in the later years.

Several regents on Thursday confronted Brown about his criticism of pay levels for new campus chancellors. Regent Richard Blum said UC must recruit the best leaders and that underpaying them "is a good way to turn this place into a junior college in about 15 years."

Brown responded that it is a moral issue and that the high executive pay widens inequities in UC and American society as a whole.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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