University Of California Withdraws Tuition Hike, Student Leaders Demand More Help

University of California Regents Chair John Perez during a remote Regents meeting on March 18, 2020. (screen shot)

At last count there were more than 285,000 students in the University of California system — and now with its 10 campuses largely shut down, many of those students lack housing, income and other support.

On Wednesday, leaders of the UC Student Association (UCSA) sent UC Regents Chair John Perez and UC President Janet Napolitano a 13-point request for student relief from hardships students are facing during the coronavirus crisis.

"We're aiming to deal with some of the consequences not only of the pandemic, but perhaps some of the unintended consequences that could happen as a result of this monumental shift in the way higher education is being done right now," UCLA student and UCSA Government Relations Chair Aidan Arasasingham said in an interview.

Perez addressed one of the UCSA demands during the Regents three-day meeting, which started Wednesday and was conducted remotely. He said after consulting with UC campus administrators and Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Regents shelved a proposal for a yearly tuition increase of $606.

"The idea was to provide for predictability not only for the university, but for our students and their families," he said. "In this moment of great uncertainty, adding a change that people couldn't fully anticipate is not the right course of action."

The student association also asked UC administrators to approve paid leave for the tens of thousands of students who work on the nine undergraduate campuses and UC San Francisco medical school as campus operations are drastically reduced.

"Students are losing a vital source of income to pay for their tuition, their housing, their books, and their food security," Arasasingham said.

On Monday, Napolitano issued an executive order responding to campus job losses by granting 128 hours of paid leave for all UC employees, including student employees. The leave is to be used before the end of the calendar year.

The UCSA also asked campuses to ease due dates on tuition and housing payments, and to provide financial help for students who need help fully accessing online instruction. The association thanked administrators for keeping UC campus dorms and dining services open, and asked that some housing be opened on an emergency basis for students who do not have a place to live.

Napolitano said through her communications office that she planned to respond to other points in the UCSA's letter.

"We appreciate the communication from student leaders during this unprecedented time and deeply sympathize with their concerns and worries," she said in an emailed statement. "We, too, are working hard to ensure the safety and well-being of our students as well as the broader UC community and the public at large."

The focus of the Regents, Perez said, would be on policies to help navigate the current and future crises brought on by the coronavirus.