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UC Proposes First Tuition Hike In Six Years

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The University of California announced on Wednesday plans to raise tuition by nearly 3% for the next school year, reports the L.A. Times. The proposal will be presented to the UC governing board at the end of January. If enacted, the proposals will bump tuition to $11,502 for the 2017-2018 school year— an increase of $282, or 2.5%. A student services fee will also face a hike of $54, bringing the total to $1,128. And out-of-state undergraduates will be paying a $28,014 supplemental tuition—$1,332 more than the current amount.

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein told the Times that, in total, the increase would bring in $88 million. UC President Janet Napolitano, speaking with the Sacramento Bee, said the hikes would help pay for additional faculty, classes, and financial aid. “There’s only so many years you can go without a rate increase or a small tuition increase that doesn’t sacrifice a lot by way of quality. As much I’d like to say we can sustain this forever, we cannot,” said Napolitano, referring to a six-year tuition freeze that has kept the rate flat since 2011. Klein added that the money will also go towards paying for more tenure-track professors, with a goal of adding 40 such faculty to UC Irvine, and 27 to UC San Diego.

A booming enrollment rate has been cited as one of the reasons for the proposed hikes. There are about 30,000 more undergraduates in the UC system now than there was back in 2010. In 2015, UC announced that it plannedon adding 10,000 new spots for California residents over the course of the next three years. And, as noted by the Times, the student-faculty ratio has ballooned on some campuses—at UC San Diego, the ratio has jumped to 27-1 over the last eight years, a stark difference from the historical ratio of 18-1.

If a 2014 proposal to raise tuition is any indicator (students walked out of classes in protest at multiple UC campuses), the latest proposal may be met with some blowback. Ralph Washington Jr., president of the UC Student Association, says that UC officials may be recommending the hikes based on reasons that aren’t fully appreciated. He says that, for example, the faculty-to-student ratio is a “metric” that gets mentioned in discussion a lot, but it doesn’t paint a full picture of what students need, such as a more diverse faculty. “If you’re evaluating things based on only those metrics, you’re missing out on the quality of the experience for students,” Washington Jr. told LAist. “There’s a lot of discussion about the quality of the education, but this is more than just about getting a training certificate. It’s about the student’s experience.” He added, “Obviously, what’s important is how tuition dollars will be spent.”

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Earlier this year, researchers and media outlets shed light on the growing problem of homelessness and lack of nutrition among the student populace. A study initiated by California State University said that around 8 to 12% of its 460,000 students were homeless. The Times also published a revealing video interview with Louis Tse, a doctoral candidate at UCLA who was living out of his car. And this is all without mentioning that many of the campuses—including UCLA and UC Berkeley—are located in areas where rising rents have made everything—from food to shelter—prohibitively expensive for students.

UC officials say, however, that the tuition hikes shouldn’t be an added burden for students who are in need. In fact, the extra money would mean more financial aid, as one-third of the money would go towards student assistance. “More than half of California undergraduates have all of their tuition and fees completely covered by financial aid,” Klein said in a statement. “That will continue to be the case.”