UC Regents Square Off with State Lawmakers, Approve 5-Year, 28% Tuition Hike

Friday, November 21, 2014
UC President Janet Napolitano

The University of California (UC) defied California’s top elected officials Thursday and approved what could be a 28% tuition increase over five years if the state doesn’t give it more money.

The UC Board of Regents passed, on a 14-7 vote, President Janet Napolitano’s request for ceiling increases of 5% a year. No votes included Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, State schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson and former Assembly Speaker and Brown appointee John Pérez.

Tuition could climb from $12,192 to $15,564 by the fall of 2019. The national average is $8,893 for all public colleges, according to the College Board. Tuition has been frozen for three years.

Napolitano has said the additional money is needed to enroll 5,000 more students, hire more faculty, pay for employee salaries and pensions, and beef up its financial aid program. The university receives about $460 million less today than it did in 2008, before the recession forced a series of state budget cuts.

Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for Napolitano, said the university could avoid the first year’s tuition hike if the state gave it another $100 million.

To help make ends meet, the university has jacked up admissions of higher-paying out-of-state and foreign students to the detriment of California residents. Admissions of foreign students are up more than 50% since 2012-13.

Brown has suggested that, instead of asking for more money, UC should reduce expenses by handing out three-year undergraduate degrees, expand online classes and realign its campuses to specialize more.

Brown and Napolitano had a testy exchange on Wednesday when the Regents Long-Range Financial Plan Committee, on which they sit, voted 7-2 to send the tuition hike proposal to the board. According to the Associated Press, Brown said, “I don't think you considered all the alternatives” and Napolitano replied, “This is the budget we think we need so we can get off this year-to-year, feast-or-famine budget process for the university. We don't have time to wait for another commission.”

Regent Sherry Lansing, who voted for the tuition hike, said the problem was pensions. “Our pension funds are treated differently than CSU, and if they weren’t we would not be talking about a tuition increase,” Lansing said. “The solutions are there: Give us a tuition buyout or better than that, cover the pension obligation.”

That probably won’t happen.

And neither will a full-blown discussion over how much money the university needs to operate, which is hampered by a paucity of information about its finances. UC has not complied with legislation passed last year that requires it to disclose key details about its spending budget, including the spending balance between undergraduates and graduates, what it spends on research, and how money is allocated from each funding source.

That money is currently lumped together in broad categories that aren’t transparent and limit oversight by the Legislature. The law was passed in June 2013 and gave UC until this October 1 to comply. They didn’t. Instead, the university asked for, and received, a 30-day reprieve. On October 31, Napolitano turned in a seven-page letter telling the Legislature the information is unavailable now but she’ll send them something in six weeks.

Sadia Saifuddin, the student representative on the Board of Regents, declared a pox on both their houses Wednesday after the committee vote and delivered the lesson of the day. “Students are always taken hostage. Students always have to pay the price of economic mismanagement by the [regents] board and the state,” she said.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

University of California Tuition Increases Adopted over Student Protests (by Lisa Leff, Associated Press)

UC Regents Approve Tuition-Hike Plan (by Katy Murphy, Bay Area News Group)

UC Regents Approve Tuition Hikes Amid Angry Protests (by Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times)

University of California: Increasing Funding or We'll Raise Tuition (by Sharon Bernstein, Reuters)

Clash of '14: Governor, UC President at Center of Tuition Hike Battle (by Ron Leuty, San Francisco Business Times)

UC Resists Law Requiring Disclosure of Expenditures (by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle)

Who Pays the Hidden Cost of University Research? (by Charles Schwartz, Minding the Campus)

Record Number of UC Freshmen Are from Out of State (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Leave a comment