Approximately 20 students gathered to protest the University of California Board of Regents vote to raise tuition, which occurred earlier today. UCSD Students Against Tuition Hikes also organized the protest to demand free UC tuition, to make UC campuses sanctuary campuses, to encourage prison and energy transfer partner divestment, to advocate that the UC endorse Proposition 13 reform and that, overall, the UC become more democratized.
In-state tuition is expected to rise by 2.5 percent, or $282 per student, with an additional $54 increase in student services fees, totaling $11,502 for the 2017-18 academic year. Out-of-state students will experience a total increase of $1,668 resulting from the overall 2.5 percent increase, in addition to five percent more in supplemental tuition — an overall cost of $28,014 for the next school year. This is the first tuition increase the UC system has seen in six years.
Protesters marched down Library Walk and through Price Center chanting, “Hey hey ho ho, tuition hikes have got to go,” among other phrases including, “Tuition is going up on a Thursday and the chancellor’s getting a pay raise,” and stopping briefly to discuss why the tuition hikes are making it difficult for students to continue studying at the university.
Students, including some who finance their own education, explained the struggle of working multiple jobs to meet the tuition and the high cost of living in La Jolla. These students are concerned that increasing tuition would make it even more difficult to balance academic, social and work life.
Ricardo Vazquez, the director of media relations at the University of California Office of the President told the UCSD Guardian that two out of three UC students will still be covered by financial aid and will not have to pay the tuition increase.
“One-third of the increase in revenue will be added to the financial aid fund,” he added. “The rest of the revenue will go to campus priorities and to things that will directly benefit students. [Things that] the students themselves have told us [ they want], and others [that are] are a very high priority for them in terms of the quality of education.”
Priorities vary from campus to campus but include hiring more faculty to combat the increasing enrollment, hiring more TAs and lowering the student-to-faculty ratio. Most of the increase in the student services fee will go to improving mental health facilities for students.
“The revenue from the tuition and fee increase [will provide UC students] with more than $540 million, including more than $250 million directly from the university to help pay for educational expenses [aside from] tuition,” Vazquez told the Guardian.
Students covered by financial aid will also receive funds to pay for expenses besides tuition, such as books, housing, and transportation.
Associated Student Council President Daniel Juarez, who participated in the protest, spoke to the Guardian about her thoughts on the tuition hikes as a response to inflation.
“I understand that money is needed for the [University of California],” she explained. “The UC [system] is in a place where it needs to be sustained financially; I understand and agree with that 100 percent. I don’t agree with the fact that students need to pay for it because we have been paying for the increases for over a decade.”
Ly Nguyen, a graduate student from the ethnic studies department attending the protest today also expressed concerns that the UC system is becoming increasingly privatized.
“I don’t want to use this myth of the golden time when education is free because every historical era has its own flaws,” she clarified. “But the fact that the UC system is gradually becoming privatized, and [it is] investing in a lot of national projects like the prison industry and the private banking system and things like that, while students have to pay the price. I think it’s important for students to realize that this is the battle they are going to have to fight now.”
Juarez also pointed out that, although state officials helped ensure tuition would not rise in 2014, they have not provided adequate support for higher education over the past couple of years.
“Addressing UC’s accountability issue as an excuse to not fund higher education properly is no longer an acceptable excuse, I would argue,” Juarez said. “Because that’s the excuse that’s been given to us in the past you know. Students mobilized and we worked with the state in 2014…they were supposed to be the ally that we had in terms of higher education funding and then we were let down.”
With regards to preventing tuition hikes now and in the future, Juarez discussed that she would be looking for different ways to mobilize and unite students while also finding alternative ways to fund higher education, including starting conversations about rolling back tuition.
“I am going to use my position to keep pushing the student narrative that’s valuable that we need to hear, I really hope to keep doing that,” Juarez said. “I think that at the administration’s level, it’ll be expressing that we’re discontent with this decision. Also, trying to mobilize other students as a whole by partnering with our graduate students and our faculty. I think together we have a lot of similar interests and we are really powerful. At the state level, I think we are going to have to lobby the state…at the rate that the state is funding us, this [raising tuition] is not going to be uncommon. We need to start talking about what we can do to get a tuition rollback … understand what is necessary to do that and do it or do something to make higher education more affordable … there’s a lot that could be done and we need the money but we also need the priorities from those higher up to commit to our needs.”
The UC Board of Regents previously voted to approve a tuition hike in 2014 that would have increased tuition by up to five percent annually through the 2019-2020 academic year. The proposal resulted in protests across the UC campuses, and, following negotiations with the state to provide more funding, the increase was ultimately not enforced.
Additional reporting by Tina Butoiu and Lauren Holt