Los Alamos students could face UC fee hike

    As the University of California ponders its future relationship with Los Alamos National Laboratory, many current and future UC students from Los Alamos, N.M., are considering the possibility that the price they pay to attend a UC institution may increase dramatically.

    The university allows children of the New Mexico laboratory’s nearly 8,000 UC employees to attend UC institutions for the price of in-state tuition. Because of this incentive, UC campuses are prime destinations for graduates of Los Alamos High School, the town’s only public high school.

    “”Everyone thinks it’s so funny that this one little high school ends up here all the time,”” said John Muir College graduate Sarah Leonard, who came to UCSD from Los Alamos. “”It’s kind of nice.””

    Leonard, who graduated winter quarter and whose parents work in the laboratory, is one of many New Mexico students who are able to attend UC institutions for in-state tuition. Leonard said that the possibility that the University of California may no longer manage the laboratory might cause adverse affects on where Los Alamos students go for undergraduate and graduate study.

    “”It is a concern,”” she said. “”Younger sisters and brothers won’t have the option to come here, or if you are considering grad schools, this becomes a non-option, where it would have been very convenient.””

    Leonard said she would begin applying to medical schools this summer for admission for fall 2004. Although she is looking at schools in New Mexico, she is also applying to UC schools hoping still to be able to pay in-state tuition.

    The current contract is set to expire in September 2005.

    Janet Lynch, a senior at Thurgood Marshall College, whose father works in the laboratory, said the incentive of paying in-state tuition is the primary reason that she and so many Los Alamos students apply to the University of California.

    “”That’s the only reason I was able to look at UC schools,”” Lynch said.

    Both Leonard and Lynch, like other Los Alamos students, have siblings who are either UC students or prospective ones. Lynch, whose older brother is a UCSD alumnus, said her 14-year-old sister’s college decision might be affected should the University of California lose the contract.

    “”If UC doesn’t get the contract, she probably won’t be able to consider going to school out here,”” she said.

    Edwina Lieb, who is coordinator of the Career Center and advisement program at the 1,200 student Los Alamos High School — the only one in the city of 18,000 — said the loss of the UC contract would have a negative effect on the number of students who choose to attend UC campuses and is something that is of concern to parents of potential UC students.

    Lieb said that if the University of California loses the contract, she expects more students to look at smaller but comparably-ranked liberal arts colleges.

    “”While parents are willing to stretch themselves, perhaps, for a Princeton, Harvard or Yale, they won’t always do that for a Whitman or a Bowdoin necessarily,”” she said. “”If the contract were to go away, the difference between out-of-state tuition and some of the smaller liberal arts schools with a financial aid package might be pretty insignificant.””

    Lieb said she knew of one student last year who was torn between UCSD and Whitman College in Washington. The student ultimately chose UCSD, citing cost as a major factor.

    Los Alamos High School sends about 12 to 24 graduates each year to UC institutions from a senior class of about 250, according to Lieb. About 75 percent of the high school’s graduates go on to attend four-year institutions and 10 percent go on to attend two-year institutions.

    Despite the April 30 announcement by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to open the laboratory contract up for bids, students with parents who work at Los Alamos said that despite threats by the University of California to give up the contract in the past, the university always renewed the contract.

    “”There’s always talk about this at Los Alamos, and it always seems to go nowhere,”” said Los Alamos resident and Muir junior Daniel Goff. “”UC always seems to threaten to drop the contract, and it never happens.””

    Although to many from Los Alamos this chapter in the University of California’s management is a routine contract question, Leonard said the University of California seems to be sending a different message this time around.

    “”I assume UC doesn’t want to carry it on because they keep bringing up all these problems with it,”” Leonard said.

    Leonard said she and other Los Alamos students work at the laboratory during the summer and fears that connection would be lost.

    “”I think for the most part, they do good science and there’s a lot of good partnerships,”” she said.

    UC President Richard C. Atkinson said on May 1, before the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, that the decision to compete for the contract would be decided on by the UC Regents and his successor. The regents are expected to begin discussing at their May meeting whether or not the University of California should pursue the contract, which the university has held since 1943.

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