By Jackie Ward

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Middle-class families with students in the University of California system were bracing for a major letdown as the UC Board of Regents met Wednesday to discuss a proposed tuition hike.

If approved, this would be the first increase in tuition since the 2010-2011 school year.

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Workers’ unions and students see this as yet another hit to the middle class. Wednesday was day one of a two-day meeting with the University of California’s governing boards. On the table is a proposed tuition hike and negotiation talks with Teamsters Local 2010.

Jason Rebinowitz is representing the workers’ union. He told KPIX 5 some employees at UCLA have been working without a contract for four years.

“We have seen real wages go down by 24 percent over the last two decades,” said Rabinowitz. “And wages are so low that about 70% of workers are either suffering from hunger or food insecurity.”

This is happening while the UC system is seeing a significant increase in enrollment and a decrease in state funding. The proposed tuition increase would raise tuition by 2.5 percent.

“When you cut wages on one hand and you raise tuition on the other, you squeeze working families from both sides,” said Rabinowitz. “And that’s not the kind of public university that we need in California.”

But UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said 57 percent of students systemwide receive full financial aid and still wouldn’t have to pay tuition even if the tuition proposal was approved.

“We are at a point where we need to make an investment in the university, otherwise the quality of the education will suffer,” Vazquez.

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This proposed tuition raised combined with Governor Jerry Brown potentially cutting the only financial aid program for the middle class has parents anxious about how they’ll foot the bill for college.

“We’re scraping every piece together to try to make this work for my daughter,” one mother of a prospective UC student told KPIX 5. “And we think she deserves to go to a university and she’s ready to go to a university.”

UC President Janet Napolitano made her opening remarks at the Board of Regents meeting, did not comment on her health or recent hospitalization.

The meeting comes a week after Napolitano’s office announced she was briefly hospitalized for side effects from cancer treatment, following a diagnosis five months earlier.

Her condition had not been previously disclosed.

In her opening remarks, Napolitano urged the regents to approve her proposal to raise tuition.

The board will vote Thursday. She also reiterated her position that UC campuses will remain “safe, welcoming and inclusive” places for undocumented students.

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