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University Of California Regents Approve 8 Percent Student Fee Hike

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Students walk to class at UC Berkeley (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Students walk to class at UC Berkeley (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP /BCN) — The cost of a University of California education is going up again, but fewer students will pay the full sticker price.

By a 15-5 vote Thursday, the UC Board of Regents approved a plan to raise undergraduate tuition by 8 percent next fall while offering more financial aid.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Student fees for California residents will increase by $822 to $11,124, which doesn’t include individual campus fees or room and board.

The move came after the 10-campus system increased undergraduate fees by more than 30 percent over the past year to offset deep cuts in state funding that led to staff furloughs, fewer course sections and reduced student enrollment.

“Ultimately, our role is to face this reality and preserve this university and the quality of this university,” board chairman Russell Gould said. “We have a structural problem at the state level. They have not been able to provide us the support necessary to sustain this university.”

The regents also voted Thursday to raise fees for graduate students in more than 40 professional degree programs, including business, law and medicine. Fees for seven of those programs will increase more than 10 percent.

The hearing was held a day after a student protest over rising college costs turned violent, leaving four police officers injured and leading to the arrests of 13 demonstrators outside the meeting site.

There were no protests at Thursday’s meeting, but several students spoke against the tuition hike.

“Working families are going to be bearing the brunt of this with student debt,” UC Berkeley law student Sonja Diaz told the regents.

Last week, the Board of Trustees for the 23-campus California State University system voted to raise tuition by 5 percent for the winter and spring terms, and another 10 percent next fall, when undergrads will pay $4,884 annually.

The UC fee hike approved Thursday will generate an estimated $180 million in annual revenue, with about one-third of that money used for financial aid.

The 10-campus system will expand its so-called Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which guarantees that financially needy students from families earning less than $80,000 a year will not have to pay any tuition. The program currently covers families who make less than $70,000.

Students with family income under $120,000 a year won’t have to pay the tuition hike for one year. University officials estimated about 55 percent of the UC system’s 181,000 undergrads won’t have to pay the increased fees next year.

UC officials said the hike was needed to maintain student enrollment, courses and services while preventing layoffs and the elimination of academic programs.

University President Mark Yudof said UC remains a bargain in higher education, costing less than public institutions such as the University of Michigan and private schools such as Stanford University, which charges annual tuition of $38,700.

“It’s a great buy,” Yudof said. “We have a fabulous financial aid package, the best in the country.”

The increase didn’t receive unanimous praise from regents, however.

Charlene Zettel, Darek DeFreece, Odessa Johnson, student Regent Jesse Cheng, and Lt. Gov. Abel Maldanado voted no on the tuition hike.

“Have we exhausted everything before we increase fees on students? In my heart I don’t feel that we have,” Maldonado said, adding in regards to UC staff salaries, “If raising fees is our only choice, are we going to cut at the top, too?”
Regent Eddie Island said, “The time I’ve been on the board, if we enact this increase, fees will have increased 50 percent. Shame on us.”

He said, “What we are doing is accelerating the velocity toward the destruction of something that we all hold dear.”

The regents also discussed a plan to reform its employee pension system, which faces a massive unfunded liability. The board is expected to vote on a proposal at a special meeting next month.

Under the plan, UC would create a new tier of pension benefits for employees hired on or after July 1, 2013. The minimum retirement age would rise from 50 to 55, and the age to receive maximum benefits would increase from 60 to 65.

The state has increased funding to the UC system by $370 million for 2010-11, but that amounts to a little more than half what the state cut the previous year, officials said.

They added that the university system receives 10 percent less state funding than it did three years ago, even though 16,000 more students are enrolled.

UC officials warned that the university will likely face more financial challenges as the state seeks to tackle a projected $25.4 million budget shortfall over the next 19 months.

“Let’s be clear. The university is not out of the woods,” Gould said.

At a news conference after the meeting, Yudof said officials would be looking into tuition raises as part of a long-term policy.

“You can’t look at the last 30 years and be at all confident you’re ever going to avoid a fee increase,” he said.

Yudof said students and others inflamed by the increase should write their local senators and congressmen. He and several regents said all options had been explored, but an 8 percent tuition raise was one of the only ways to provide relief to a budget shortfall of about $1 billion.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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