Officials said a recent 20 percent fee increase across University of California nursing schools will improve the programs’ quality and student enrollment, but some students said the added costs may prevent them from participating in the graduate programs altogether.
The University of California Board of Regents approved the student fee increase on Nov. 19 for Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition in all four UC nursing schools, at UCLA, UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC San Francisco.
PDST is an additional fee that graduate students pay on top of standard university tuition. It was first implemented in 1994 to offset reductions in state funding, according to a document from the UC Office of the President.
PDST for UCLA’s School of Nursing will rise to about $10,000 from about $8,400, following the change. Linda Sarna, acting dean of the nursing school, said officials hope to enroll 30 more students to the Advanced Practice program. The Advanced Practice degree is a two-year program that trains registered nurses to be nurse administrators, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. There are about 100 students enrolled in the entire graduate degree program.
Sarna said she thinks the increase in PDST is necessary to maintain the quality of the school. The fees will go to faculty salaries and student scholarships, among other funds, Sarna said. UCLA’s Graduate Student Nursing Association, which represents graduate nursing students, could not be reached for a comment for this article.
All of the UC nursing schools are currently in debt because of a lack of state funding and rising operational costs, Sarna said. She said it is expensive to hire the best staff in the nursing field because the schools must compete with salaries in the clinical field.
In 2013, the UC nursing programs proposed a 35 percent increase in PDST as part of a three-year plan, but former UC president Mark Yudof proposed an 8 percent increase in response, Sarna said. She said that this year, the nursing schools reduced their request to a 20 percent hike in PDST.
Nursing programs in particular are expensive for the University to maintain because of the state-mandated student to teacher ratio of 8:1, said Dianne Klein, UC spokesperson.
“If tuition revenues do not increase, the University will be forced to curtail enrollment in these programs at a time when the state is facing a serious nursing shortage,” Klein said.
California is facing a shortage of registered nurses in 26 of its 50 counties, said Dylan Roby, adjunct assistant professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
One cause of the undersupply of nurses is that not enough nurses are being trained, Roby said. Schools do not have the capacity to train many nurses, so the programs are highly competitive, Roby said.
Roby added that he thinks the increase in PDST has the potential to address the nursing shortage because higher student fees may allow hiring of more faculty to train nurses. He said, however, he thinks UCLA will not have as much of a problem finding qualified staff as some other schools because of its program’s prestige.
But some students said they think the fee increase will hurt their ability to afford to attend nursing school.
Stephanie Darden, a third-year nursing student, said she was upset when she heard about the fee increase. She said the additional costs may make it difficult for her to pursue nursing at a graduate school in the future.
“The UC is supposed to be founded on affordability, but the UCs are now closed off to low-income communities, like the one I come from,” she said. “I can’t tell my little nieces and cousins that they’ll be able to go to nursing school also.”
The UC will implement the fee increase during the 2015-2016 academic year.
Contributing reports by Jillian Frankel, Bruin contributor.