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Potentially Priced Out: UC Students Protest Budget Woes

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When the UC Board of Regents held a meeting this past Thursday, students and staff were on hand to express dismay with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recently announced proposal for increased fees, enrollment limits, and salary freezes.

According to the LA Times, the organized protest included approximately "50 students carrying protest banners" who spoke out about the possible fee hikes because of the troubled state budget. Students feel it is not right for them to have to shoulder the responsibility of California's fiscal shortcomings and to sacrifice their future earnings by accruing more and more student loan debt. Some see the proposed increases in tuition and other student fees as a means of discouraging "many low- and middle-income students from attending UC."

The Governor's plan is to raise fees by 7.4%--although many think the actual percentage will be closer to 10%) making the annual UC tuition (not including books, supplies, or housing, among other costs) to about $8,000 or more. UC and CSU students recently felt the crunch of fee hikes last year, when both systems' tuition went above the national average for state-supported schools.

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Staff and faculty worry that enrollment freezes will mean less revenue for the campuses, forcing cuts in other programs. The last time the UC system froze out eligible applicants was in 2004, when 5,800 were told "to enroll at community colleges and transfer later to UC." This left a bad impression on many, who opted not to attend a UC at all at any stage of their higher education. UC Board members and official share the concerns:

"I'm not convinced that our answer is to limit enrollment," said board Chairman Richard C. Blum. "Our first duty is to the people of California and certainly to the students." He said UC should seek savings by cutting its "bloated administration" and wasteful spending. Wyatt R. Hume, the UC system's provost and chief operating officer, said the mood in the university is to avoid an enrollment freeze. However, he said the state's finances mean "we have to look at all options."

The decision about the proposed budget will be made in Sacramento in the coming months, meanwhile students and staff members in the UC and CSU systems are remaining mobilized in wake of potential battle.Photo by Chris Radcliff via Flickr