Tuesday, October 22

Submission: Tuition hikes antithetical to UC’s value of accessible education

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the University of California system. When the UC was first established, educational accessibility was considered one of its core tenets. However, since 1990, the state funding per UC student has plummeted from $19,100 to about $7,160. Meanwhile, tuition and fees have more than tripled over the last 15 years. This increase has been particularly egregious for nonresident students, who are now expected to pay upwards of $62,000 per year to receive an education at UCLA. To put it into context, the median household income in the United States is less than $58,000.

An affordable college education is a thing of the past at the UC.

The UC Board of Regents, the overseeing body of the University, will decide next year’s tuition fees next week on our very campus. The regents will be discussing raising nonresident tuition by 3.5 percent. In May, they will vote on a resident tuition increase of 2.5 percent.

Time and time again, students have rallied to challenge tuition hikes, and this time is no exception. It is incumbent on regents to vote on these changes while keeping in mind the financial conditions of UC students who will carry the extra burden.

Conversations of this nature have obviously taken place in the past. Our predecessors have organized movements that opposed tuition increases for decades, and today we as students join their legacy. While it is certainly important to raise funds to elevate an institution that serves nearly 240,000 students, as students who live on campus grounds, we have a deeper insight into the effects these tuition raises have on our communities.

I’ve always wondered what my stance would be on international students if I had gone to college back home in my country of Egypt. Would I support their protests against tuition hikes? After all, they’ve made the decision to come to my country for an education. That perspective is way too simplistic, however. I would not want to go to a university the world’s most promising students cannot afford to attend; it is simply not in my best interest – financially or morally. To recognize that these students already pay more than twice the amount of my fees would make me more emboldened to support their protest.

The nonresident community is integral to the UC, not just for the great sums of money nonresidents provide to the University, but also because of its inspirational stories and experiences that intricately help design the very fabric of our institution. Nonresident students’ promise, as individuals who represent the cream of the crop from the entire world, adds value and builds the UC’s reputation in a way that cannot be measured by tuition or state funding. They make the UC a global brand, further inviting financial investments, promising applicants and creating worldwide impact to further some of the greatest endeavors our world has embarked on.

It is a harmful misconception to think all these individuals come from wealthy families and are able to afford increases in their tuition. Some international students just manage to gather their tuition funds from relatives, loans and on-campus jobs to afford a UC degree. After all, the most common question asked at student-led international student orientations was “How do I get a job?” To add to that, many international students come to the UC and realize they are not eligible for most of the financial support opportunities available such as scholarships, emergency loans and the work study program. We clearly are not the cash cows state politicians portray us to be.

The continued increase of tuition on nonresidents does not simply change affordability; it also plays into competition over the world’s brightest minds. Uninformed conversations regarding international and out-of-state students, including the recent enrollment caps on international and nonresident students at the UC, reflect an unhealthy and unproductive sense of hostility and carelessness toward the community.

Here is the reality: Many international students I know enroll in more than 20 units per quarter to graduate in three years. Others I know move off campus if they can’t afford the unreasonably exorbitant cost of housing with no financial aid. And many more identify with the 42 percent of UC students who skip meals and face food insecurity. It should not come as a surprise that we’re vulnerable humans too.

This is why we protest. This is why we say no to tuition hikes, especially after the hike just last year. While the regents may split the tuition hike decision into two votes to isolate international students who are particularly vulnerable to visas being revoked, we will not forsake our nonresidents. Our fight is one and will remain one: affordability for all.

This is the vision we hope that the UC will champion in its next 150 years. We hope students, faculty and staff will join us.

Beshay is the president of the International Student Leadership Coalition.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Lance

    Nice article Ashraf because being an international student away from home is difficult, compounded by our complex culture, language problems, and escalating tuition . Welcoming and assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand so we all have a win-win situation.
    Something that might help anyone coming to the US is the award-winning worldwide book/ebook “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” Used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it identifies how “foreigners” have become successful in the US, including students.
    It explains how to cope with a confusing new culture and friendship process, and daunting classroom differences. It explains how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.
    It also identifies the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.
    Good luck to all at UCLA or wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who shout the loudest!