The University of California Board of Regents considered a multiyear proposal to increase in-state tuition across the UC on Wednesday during its three-day meeting at UC San Francisco.
The proposal was initially set to be voted on at the meeting, but was rescheduled for a later, unknown date following student opposition. The regents instead only discussed the potential of a tuition increase during the meeting.
If approved by the regents, the tuition increase would be the first increase of in-state tuition since 2017 and the second in-state tuition increase in eight years. Out-of-state tuition was last increased by $762 in May 2019.
The regents considered two different models to increase tuition over five years: an inflation-based model that would increase tuition yearly for all students or a cohort-based model that would apply tuition increments solely to incoming students and would not change tuition for returning students.
Under the inflation-based model, in-state and out-of-state tuition would increase by $348 for all students next year, while the cohort-based model would raise tuition by $606 for incoming students.
Regent John Pérez said he thinks an increase in tuition should be on the table due to the increasing UC budget.
However, Regent Eleni Kounalakis, the Californian Lieutenant Governor, said she opposes any tuition increase and added she is concerned that spending decisions are often made without regard to money, and students end up footing the bill.
“I’m concerned that spending decisions are made as if money is no object,” Kounalakis said. “And then when the bill comes, everyone shrugs and says, well if the legislature doesn’t fund that, I guess it’s just going to have to go on the back of students.”
Nathan Brostrom, the interim chancellor at UC Merced, said because UC Merced is so young, it is disproportionately dependent on tuition and the state for funding and a tuition increase could help improve the quality of education and financial aid funding.
According to the proposal, the tuition increase would provide additional funding for in-state financial aid and would prevent undergraduates from needing to borrow money or work to fund their education. Increases in tuition would end up decreasing the total cost of attendance for low income students through financial aid.
UC President Janet Napolitano said the cohort-based model provides predictability for students and allows the UC to hold tuition constant if the government provides additional funding.
On the other hand, Regent George Kieffer said the inflation-based tuition plan would rise with the cost of living and set standard expectations for students.
Students criticized the proposal during a public comment session.
Varsha Sarveshwar, president of the University of California Student Association and a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley, said she is glad the vote was delayed because UCSA was not given proper advance notice and was not told that the proposal spanned multiple years.
Sarveshwar added that students with parents who refuse to pay their children’s tuition, such as LGBTQ+ students, would be disproportionately affected by an increase in tuition.
Victoria Liu, a second-year psychobiology student at UCLA, said the regents should look elsewhere, such as the California government’s $7 billion surplus, for funding.
“I’m tired of the UC system asking us students for money to fix a broken funding system,” Liu said. “There’s still a huge potential we can tap into to help UC students so we can all attend these world-class universities.”
The tuition increase was proposed after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Jan. 10 statewide budget did not provide enough money to the UC system to meet the budget plan approved by the regents in November.
Newsom said the proposed tuition increase was unwarranted and inconsistent with college affordability goals, in a statement released by his spokesman Jesse Melgar.
The budget increased funding to the UC system by $217.7 million, which now totals $3.996 billion, a 5% increase from the 2019-2020 academic year.
Regent Sherry Lansing said she was uncomfortable raising tuition after Newsom and the legislature were so generous to the UC and added she wonders if there is more dialogue to be had.
“It bothers me, it’s almost like, well, thanks a lot, here’s a slap in the face, we don’t want this and we’re going to do it anyway,” Lansing said.
Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley said he wants the regents to find another solution before raising tuition.
“None of these choices are great,” Oakley said. “But, we’re in this box, and I’d like us to exhaust every form of revenue before going to the students.”