University of California administrators are proposing the first tuition hike since 2017 for undergraduates who are state residents — a $348 hike, or 2.8 percent based on inflation, with more to come in the following four years.
They also are suggesting an alternative that would freeze costs for current students at UC’s nine undergraduate campuses but increase it for incoming freshmen by $606 and then more for subsequent classes.
The UC Board of Regents are expected to vote next week on the two plans, possibly approving one They could also decide to postpone any decision until the Legislature provides more funding to the university than Gov. Gavin Newsom did in his recent budget proposal. In his budget plan last year, Newsom explicitly forbade tuition increases at state universities. However, his budget statement last week did not include such a ban and raised speculation that he might go along with modest increases based on inflation.
Newsom’s offer of a 5 percent increase, or $217.7 million more, in general revenue support for UC is not enough “to avoid the erosion in the quality of a UC education that would otherwise result” if the university relied on state funds and internal efforts at efficiencies, according to the regents’ agenda item. Newsom’s office did not respond to EdSource’s request for comment.
One of the plans is a traditional across-the-board hike for the 2020-21 school year of $348 on top of the current $12,570 California undergraduates pay for mandatory tuition and university-wide fees. (Campus-based fees, housing, food and other expenses can bring the total expenses to $35,000 before any financial aid discounts.) Undergraduates from other states and nations would see tuition and university wide fees rise by 1,188 to $43,512 before housing and other costs.
What’s different from previous tuition hikes is that the proposal calls for extra increases each year through 2024 based on the California Consumer Price Index. The plan now projects those at about 3.3 percent in each subsequent year, with a tuition and fees by 2024 likely totaling $14,670 for state residents and $49,452 for out-of-staters.
The other idea is more unusual. The so-called cohort plan calls for costs to remain stable for current students while each entering class would face higher costs and then be guaranteed no more increases for up to six years. Last year, in a preliminary discussion, UC officials touted such a plan as a way to provide students and families more stability and predictability about education costs. However, critics note that cohorts have been difficult to administer at some universities who tried it in other states because of the complications of having to produce a different tuition bill for every class. They say a UC version could create confusion among students.
Under that cohort plan, freshmen starting in fall 2020 would pay a $606, or 4.8 percent, increase. Then each entering class would face hikes likely to range from 3.3 percent to 4.8 percent based on a formula using inflation and other measures. The proposal projects that tuition and fees could reach $15,414 for state residents in the entering class of 2024 and $51,936 for non-residents.
Varsha Sarveshwar president of the UC Student Association, told EdSource Thursday that her organization is opposed to “any and all tuition increases.” She said she was particularly surprised that UC wants to raise costs not just for the coming year but for five years out.
The cohort plan, she said, raises special concerns since the students affected by the increases would not yet be at UC and have no voice on the matter. Meanwhile current students would likely be less engaged on tuition issues since any change “doesn’t affect them,” she added.
UC officials stress that a third of all new tuition revenues is dedicated to financial aid for low- and middle-income students and that many students would not be affected by the tuition hikes. In fact, many students may actually see a $140 decrease in costs after UC aid and higher Cal Grants scholarships kick in, they said.
The rest of the new revenue would help hire additional faculty, allow enrollment to grow, cover rising costs of employee benefits and help support such programs as mental health counseling for students, among other things, the agenda item says.
In 2017, tuition for California undergraduates at the University of California rose for the first time in six years — a $336, or 2.7 percent, hike that university officials said was needed to expand enrollment and faculty.
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