Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Student demonstrations erupted at last week’s UC Board of Regents meeting as many condemned the lack of affordability of UC President Janet Napolitano’s proposed tuition plan. Much to the chagrin of Gov. Jerry Brown and UC Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin, who voted against the tuition increase, the regents approved the plan by 14-7.

Crowds of students chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, tuition hikes have got to go!” and linked arms to prevent the regents from entering the meeting room last Tuesday. A glass door was shattered as students attempted to storm into the meeting room. A 21-year-old UC Berkeley student was also arrested and charged with two counts of felony vandalism and inciting a riot.

Addressing the panel of regents, Saifuddin said protesters’ actions might appear “unsavory to you all” but the anger and fear students may be experiencing should be kept in mind. “This is not just $612 more a year. This is rent. This is another job they need to get. This is food they cannot buy.”

ASUCR President of External Affairs Abraham Galvan also commented during the public forum period and encouraged the board to look at long-term funding solutions. Viewing the tuition increase as a political maneuver by Napolitano, Galvan said, “The UC should not be using students as pawns in a toe-to-toe battle with the governor,” he said. “Work with us, not use us.”

Napolitano said the tuition increase was necessary to maintain robust financial aid, create a more predictable tuition model and offset the “massive state divestment” experienced by the UC in the last few years.

As a result of the plan, UC tuition will increase by up to 5 percent per year, potentially driving tuition from its current levels of $12,192 to as high as $15,563 in the next five years, unless the state provides additional funding. This is the first time UC tuition is expected to increase after three years.

“UC has long stood as a beacon of hope for young Californians,” said Napolitano. “The plan ensures the UC will stay that way.”

Napolitano reaffirmed that the tuition increase is “integral to the vitality of the UC” and will help the university system enroll 5,000 more in-state students and 2,000 more out-of-state students. Creating differential campus levels of tuition, caps on in-state enrollment and reductions to financial aid were a few alternative proposals that she rejected.

According to a presentation given by the UC’s Vice Executive President of Business Operations Nathan Brostrom, the UC currently operates on core funds of $6.6 billion with tuition and fees making up 45 percent, state funding making up 42 percent, and nonresident enrollment and other sources comprising the last 13 percent. The UC receives $460 million less from the state than it did in the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year, despite an increase of nearly 7,000 students, according to a press release.

Even with the tuition increase, UCR officials report that financial aid will also increase to accommodate the adjustments in tuition. The UC currently provides nearly 55 percent of all UC undergraduates with income-based financial aid that fully covers tuition.

Brown chimed in during the meeting and called for the creation of a joint committee with members selected by Napolitano, himself and the state Department of Finance to help the UC establish fundamental cost-cutting measures such as: offering more online classes, creating policies to facilitate the California community college-UC transfer pipeline and implement consistent lower-division major requirements throughout the UC system.