“Hey hey, ho ho, student debt has got to go!” chanted University of California students at the UC Board of Regents meeting. While the midterm season is in full swing, students from across the ten campuses traveled to the University of California, San Francisco to protest the proposed tuition increase.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, the increase, which would take effect in 2018-2019, would raise in-state tuition by 2.7%, or $342. Students who live outside of California were in for a worse fate as their nonresident tuition would increase by $978.
Frustration over the continued rising costs of the university, students mobilized by protesting, calling their state representatives, and expressing their frustrations on social media. Elected representatives spoke out against the hike, including Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and Speaker of the California State Assembly Anthony Rendon.
— Emily DeRuy (@Emily_DeRuy) January 24, 2018
On Wednesday, January 24, much to the celebration of students across the state, it was announced by the UC Board of Regents that the vote would be postponed until the May meeting. Until then, the UC Board of Regents committed to lobbying the state legislature for additional funding, as the current state budget allocated $34 million less than what university administration expected to meet their financial needs.
It’s official. The UC Board of Regents will postpone it’s vote on a tuition increase until May. This is unprecedented and was only possible because of student power.
— Paul Monge (@paulmonge_SF) January 25, 2018
While tuition in California was once free, the rising costs of tuition (paired with the ever-increasing costs of living) have students shaking their head.
Last January, the UC Board of Regents voted to increase tuition by 2.5%, raising costs for the first time in six years. Four months later, a state audit revealed that the university hid $175 million in a rainy-day fund, while continually demanding more funding from the university. Further controversy erupted when it was discovered that Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California, spent more than $4,000 on an employee’s retirement party, $13,000 for a dinner party to honor two departing members of the Board and $862,000 spent on the president’s apartment in Oakland.
The state isn’t blameless, either. While California is celebrated as a progressive state, the legislature continues to divest from higher education, providing less funding to meet the exponential need of college graduates within the state. From 2012-2013, tuition was a part of the core funding for the university, with $2.98 billion contributed solely from students. As state legislatures and university officials clash, often, it’s at the expense of underresourced and over-paying students, causing spikes in tuition as substitutes for critical conversations and political negotiations.
“The university and the state legislators can work together by putting aside their differences and work toward the goal of looking at the data together and coming up with a solution collaboratively,” said Jonathan Abboud, graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and one of the lead organizers behind The $48 Fix, an organization working to reclaim California’s Master Plan for Higher Education.
While students celebrate their well-deserved victory in postponing the vote, only time will tell what the final administrative decision will be. Only one thing is certain: that the voices of students will continue to be amplified, and unflinchingly demand a seat at the table for the decisionmaking processes toward the future of their university. And that, regardless of the vote, is something to celebrate.
“I’m most excited for students to regain their agency,” said Paul Monge, the UC Student Regent. “We are, in fact, partners of the university and of the state.”
The next UC Board of Regents meeting will be on March 15-16 at the University of California, San Francisco.
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