Regents raise UC fees by 30 percent

    Senior Staff Writer

    Student fees for resident undergraduates at the University of California will increase to $4,984 per year, the UC Board of Regents announced on July 17 after raising fees an by 25 percent in addition to the added 5 percent increase the board authorized UC President Richard C. Atkinson to make on top of the latest fee hike to balance the university’s budget if a further lack of state funding requires. UC officials said the president will exercise that option after the state budget passed through the California legislature on July 29 with more cuts to the university.

    The 25 percent increase, approved by a vote of 13-3, amounts to an additional $1,150 per year for undergraduates. In January, the Regents voted for the first time since 1994 to raise fees when they increased fees by $405 annually to offset cuts made by Gov. Gray Davis. In his May revision to the state budget, Davis called for UC fees to be raised an additional $795. However, with a budget impasse that lasted more than a month past the constitutional deadline of June 15, Atkinson asked the Regents to augment the increase to meet the university’s current financial situation.

    In a July 2 letter to the Regents, the second day of the 2003-04 fiscal year, Atkinson recommended raising student fees by a “”significant amount,”” borrowing money and considering the possibility of restricting student enrollment in 2004-05 to compensate for the $1 billion the university has lost in State-University Partnership funding since California’s economic downturn began.

    “”The fee proposal is a difficult one, but it is only one of many actions being taken to cope with this budget crisis,”” Atkinson said in the July 2 letter to the Regents. “”I believe [the increase] is essential if we are to avoid cutting class offerings, increasing class sizes and delaying students’ progress to graduation.””

    Accompanying the Regents’ approval to raise fees 25 percent, the board also gave Atkinson – or his Oct. 2 successor, UCSD Chancellor Robert C. Dynes – the authority to raise fees to a 30 percent increase if needed. In addition, the UC spokesman Hanan Eisenman said the university is planning on borrowing between $40 and $50 million. Enrolling 5,000 fewer freshman and transfers in 2004-05 would save the university more than $45 million in state funds, Atkinson contends.

    The UC system has taken about $360 million in cuts to base budget items, such as research, administration and libraries. Included in these cuts is a 50 percent reduction from every K-12 outreach program and an additional 10 percent across-the-board cut to research, already cut 10 percent in the previous year’s budget. More than $6.3 million was cut from student services in Davis’ January version and more cuts to this line item are expected.

    Both houses of the California legislature passed a budget, with the assembly narrowly achieving passage after Speaker Herb J. Wesson (D-Los Angeles) locked members in the assembly chamber for a 29-hour session until it was passed on July 29. Davis spokesperson Hillary McLean said the governor is expected to sign the budget into law by the time the Guardian goes to press. Amendments made to Davis’ May revision include an extra $111 million cut to the University of California. McLean said that cuts to education were inevitable given the state’s $38 billion deficit, but that Davis had fought hard to prevent any further cuts to the “”governor’s top priority.””

    “”Gov. Davis is not 100 percent happy with the final version, but the alternative of furthering the budget impasse is much worse,”” McLean said. “”While it’s not perfect, we as a state are on stronger financial footing because of it.””

    The university’s tenth campus, UC Merced, will not enroll undergraduates in fall 2004, as previously scheduled, because of language included in the state senate’s version of the budget bill to delay its opening for one year to save money.

    Eisenman maintains that the University of California will remain accessible, as one-third of all fee increases will be allocated directly to the university’s financial aid programs. UC Grants covering the full amount of the increase will be available to students from families with household incomes less than $60,000 per year. Students from households with incomes between $60,000 and $90,000 can receive UC Grants equivalent to about one-half of the total increase amount, Eisenman said.

    “”The Regents were forced to raise fees, but at the same time aimed to mitigate the impact of the increases for many students and their families through need-based financial aid programs,”” he said.

    Mandatory student fees at the University of California, as of Aug. 1, are $4,984 for resident undergraduates; $5,219 for resident graduates; $19,647 for nonresident undergraduates; $19,036 for nonresident graduates; $9,684 for resident nursing students; and $16,549 for resident law students.

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