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Op-ed: Tuition hike reveals failure to recognize contributions of nonresident students

By Sachi Cooper

May 21, 2019 11:23 p.m.

On Thursday, The University of California Board of Regents decided to, once again, raise tuition for nonresident students.

UC President Janet Napolitano sent a clear message to all out-of-state, international and nonresident-tuition-nonexempt undocumented students: We don’t care about you unless you bankroll our institution.

The tuition hikes are a paradigm of the paradoxical relationship between our financial value and our unappreciated role as contributors and builders of a world-class university system. The time has come for this blatant disregard for the humanity and value of nonresident students to stop.

As an out-of-state student, I am fortunate to have parents who can pay for the equivalent of in-state tuition at my state school. However, that still leaves me to cover the additional $29,754 nonresident supplemental fee myself. I do not qualify for financial aid, yet I still carry a loan burden much greater than many of my Californian counterparts.

I came to UCLA knowing my financial situation. However, I came on the premise that it was more affordable than some of my other choices, which were private schools with tuitions upward of $70,000 a year. UCLA’s affordability, in large part, led me to choose it over other more prestigious and more expensive universities.

Yet as tuition rates get closer to the price of these private universities that provide more equitable financial aid and resources, the UC will lose valuable students and yield rates will drop.

The regents have no care for our financial and personal needs, but they should care about our retention if they wish to have students to fund their multimillion-dollar funding gaps in the future.

Moreover, campuses like UCLA pride themselves on being a world university, while financially exploiting the students that make it so. The nonresident students now being forced to pay higher tuition are the students who encourage their peers and siblings from across the country and world to apply to UCLA and tell their networks of friends and family about their experiences. They are the students who pursue successful careers in a wide spectrum of fields, bolstering the prestige of UCLA across the globe and bringing in essential money and resources.

For instance, UCLA is desperately attempting to cement itself as a respected institution to employers and the federal government in my hometown of Washington, D.C. Yet at the same time, administrators ostracize students from these areas by exploiting them for money and disregarding their unique needs. These students have the knowledge and network to build up UCLA’s reputation in their places of residence – through parents, peers and institutional connections. The UC cannot expect to gain respect across the globe if it fails to listen to the needs of the students from these regions.

Napolitano argued not raising nonresident tuition would result in a $30 million budget gap that would harm all students. Yet the regents could have opted for a smaller tuition increase of about $100 for all UC students to raise this money. Instead, it decided to charge about 20% of its population an amount over seven times greater than this.

While tuition increases will hurt students no matter what, there are many more California residents that can afford a $100 increase than there are nonresident students that can afford a $762 increase.

The regents might have had the ability to see nonresident students as more than just a herd of cash cows if they were less blind to the contributions nonresident students make to the UC’s prestige and diversity. Inevitably, though, they will attempt to raise tuition for nonresidents again.

Let’s hope they recognize the students who have made the nation’s top public universities what they are today.

Cooper is a first-year geography student.

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