Courtesy: UC Student Association
UC students in March rallied in Sacramento against tuition hikes. They later won a freeze and now a $60 rollback.

The 10-campus University of California system has for now backed off on raising tuition and systemwide fees for in-state students, following months of warnings that it would bump up tuition $342 or 2.7 percent for undergraduates from California.

The announcement means the system’s Board of Regents will not take a vote on increasing in-state tuition at its May meeting.  The move puts off at least for now a hike to the $12,630 annual in-state undergraduate tuition. The decision also affects in-state graduate students who pay varying rates depending on their area of study.

The system could still raise 2018-19 tuition for its 210,409 in-state students if budget negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature don’t lead to extra funding before the June 15 deadline to pass a state budget.

“Raising tuition is always a last resort and one we take very seriously,” UC president Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “We will continue to advocate with our students, who are doing a tremendous job of educating legislators about the necessity of adequately funding the university to ensure UC remains a world-class institution and engine of economic growth for our state.”

University officials and the students have been lobbying the governor and lawmakers to increase funding to avoid the tuition hike.

“This is huge,” said Rigel Robinson, external affairs vice president of the Associated Students of University of California and a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley. He credited the freeze to a stronger partnership between student representatives and UC officials than in years past.

“That doesn’t happen often,” he added. “A lot of us are used to needing to be confrontational.”

The announcement follows more forceful action last week by the California State University system, which decided to freeze tuition for next year no matter what the Legislature and Gov. Brown decide, staving off a $228, or 3.9 percent increase for the system’s roughly 408,000 in-state undergraduates.

The UC Board of Regents put off a vote on the tuition hike in January after stinging criticism from Gov. Brown, who called the increase “premature” and said more work was needed to reduce the university’s costs.

While both systems were slated for increases in Brown’s January budget for 2018-19, UC and CSU officials said they need more.

Brown’s January budget allotted a 3 percent increase in state support. The UC wants at least a 4 percent increase, or $140 million more than what Brown proposed.

A spokesperson for the governor’s Department of Finance said the administration has no new changes in its budget to announce. That could be different on May 14, when an update to the budget known as the May Revision is scheduled to appear.

Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), speaker of the Assembly and a member of the UC Board of Regents, in January said he opposes a tuition hike. “The budget item presented to the Regents does not make a compelling case that this increase is necessary,” he said then.

In an email, Rendon’s press secretary said, “Speaker Rendon has said the Assembly is committed to increased funding for higher education, and will carry this commitment into the budget discussions.”

“He has not made any specific funding commitments at this time.”

The UC Regents did vote to raise the supplemental tuition for out-of-state students in March by 3.5 percent, but the governing body said it could rescind that decision if the system receives more money in the state budget.

A statement from Napolitano’s office notes the UC has 90,000 more students than it did in 2000, but that the level of state funding hasn’t changed since then.

A February analysis by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office shows that state per-student spending on the UC would actually decrease by $100 under Brown’s proposed budget compared to this year, from $32,368 to $32,268.

While State support has gone up in recent years it still lags the 2000-01 level of $39,299 per student, according to inflation-adjusted numbers from the analyst’s office.

Both the UC and CSU raised undergraduate tuition last year for the first time in six years: $270 or 4.9 percent at Cal State, and $336 or 2.7 percent at UC.

About 58 percent of UC undergraduates who are state residents receive enough federal and state financial aid that they do not have to pay for tuition.

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