The University of California Board of Regents will vote on a tuition increase at its January meeting Wednesday.
The possible tuition hike came as a surprise for many students, who did not expect a hike this year. The agenda refers to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2020-21 state budget proposal, which did not fully fund the UC’s budget request to the state, said UC spokesperson Sarah McBride in an emailed statement.
Aidan Arasasingham, government relations committee chair for the UC Student Association, said the UCSA was surprised by the possible tuition hike, as students usually get a signal of whether the regents will be considering a tuition increase in November, when the Board of Regents approves the UC’s budget.
“So in November, the budget that they passed actually had the assumption that there would be no tuition increases for in-state and out-of-state students for the next year,” Arasasingham said. “So back in November, we were under the impression that there would not be a tuition increase for the next year. So this is a bit of a change from what we were expecting.”
McBride said the November discussion of the budget did not include a proposal for a tuition increase because the UC would not have needed to increase tuition if its request to the state had been fully funded. Newsom released a proposed budget for the state Jan. 10 that included a $217.7 million increase in permanent funding to the UC.
She added Newsom’s spending plan is an important first step toward meeting the UC’s funding needs, adding that if the state increases funding between now and when the final budget is approved in July, the Board could rescind its decision.
“The University will continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with the governor and Legislature to expand access and affordability for California undergraduates, boost graduate student enrollment, support on-time graduation and close achievement gaps among first-generation and underrepresented students,” McBride said.
The regents, who act as the governing body of the UC, will also decide between a traditional model and a cohort-based tuition model at the meeting. The traditional tuition model would result in uniform tuition increases for both new and continuing students, while the cohort-based tuition model would result in tuition increases only for incoming freshmen and undergraduate transfer students.
The proposed tuition hikes would increase financial aid for students and reduce the need for students to work or borrow in order to pay for their education, according to the agenda for the meeting.
However, Arasasingham, who is also a third-year global studies student at UCLA, said UCSA is opposed to the cohort-based tuition model, as it does not think it has been thoroughly vetted.
He added that the last minute nature of the tuition proposal has made it difficult for students to express their opinions on the issue.
Arasasingham said tuition votes typically go before the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee before being presented to the entire Board of Regents. However, the tuition hike at Wednesday’s meeting will head straight to the Board.
“What we’re seeing in this meeting is it doesn’t go to the committee and there isn’t that platform for discussion among regents and among the broader community,” Arasasingham said. “So we find that challenging and problematic because it doesn’t go through the full process of seeing the committee and allowing regents and members of the public to engage with it in the committee.”
He said this limits discussion on the tuition proposal and gives students less time to organize and mobilize around the issue.
“With every tuition (increase) we’ve seen over the past few years, students could come and give public comment on Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. “Typically, some of our students who were kind of advocating behind the scenes had two days of face time with regents to kind of make our cases against tuition increases. But with this meeting, since it’ll be going Wednesday morning, there won’t be any of that time and it’ll actually be the first thing that regents take up.”
Arasasingham added that, overall, UCSA is concerned with the hastiness of the tuition proposal and how it has diverged from previous precedents of how tuition increases were discussed.
“There’s always concern with a tuition increase, but we’re especially concerned because of all this uncertainty and what we view as a very hasty push to have this on the agenda,” he said.