With California citizens voting to pass Proposition 47 in the recent midterm election, our governor, legislature and the University of California Board of Regents have some important decisions to make. Prop. 47, in essence, will release many non-violent criminals from California prisons, based on new sentencing guidelines. If everything goes as planned, these actions are meant to free up hundreds of millions of dollars of state money which was previously being spent on the over-crowded state prison system, and funnel it into things like a fund for crime victims and, most importantly for us, the California Department of Education.
A large amount of cash could not come at a better time, especially for UC students. Just yesterday, the Long-Term Planning Committee of the UC Board of Regents voted to allow a tuition increase that will raise tuition by more than $3,000 over the course of the next five years. This is devastating for so many of the accomplished students who have worked hard to be able to attend UCs but are likely going to be priced out of the education they deserve. Our professors and TAs have long been underpaid, our facilities are in poor condition, there is a noticeable lack of affordable on-campus housing and students are leaving UC campuses with enormous debt. But we also know that money doesn’t grow on trees: it has to come from somewhere.
It is with these things in mind that we urge the Board of Regents, Governor Brown and the administrators of the UC campuses to explore alternate options for funding the crown jewels of the California higher education system. A majority of the money freed up by Prop. 47 should be put towards the UC system and improving the status quo. We have a number of suggestions for what can be fixed. First and foremost, the administrators and Regents who this tuition hike is going to benefit the most monetarily should accept pay cuts, in the light of the financial hardships faced by actual educators and hard-working students at the UC campuses. Additionally, less freshmen should be admitted to the system. The size of incoming classes has been continuously increasing, and while we understand that the higher-ups of the system want as many tuition-paying students as possible, it is not financially feasible at this point for this many students to attend and for the system to remain in the slightest bit cost-efficient. We also agree with Governor Brown’s suggestions to offer more online courses and certifications based on proven work experience to avoid classroom overcrowding.
We are disappointed today that the Board of Regents and UC President Janet Napolitano have forgotten who they are here to serve. Their duty is to protect the students and educators of the UC system, not to line the pockets of a select few. With the passing of Prop 47, the state has an opportunity to reinvest funds into a system that was supposed to be its pride and joy. We sincerely hope that the Regents, the legislature and Governor Brown will consider reversing their decision to raise tuition in light of more viable alternatives.