UCSA report examines ‘true cost’ of grad school

    The UC Student Association’s graduate and professional student committee released a report detailing the “true cost” of education for graduate and professional students on April 22.

    If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget cuts are implemented, graduate student fees will increase by 40 percent and professional student fees will increase by 25 percent.

    According to the report, raising graduate and professional student fees will have negative consequences not only for graduate students but for undergraduate students, as well. The report argues that since many professors hire graduate students to teach in their classes, a reduction in the number of graduate students brought on by increased fees will affect the quality of undergraduate education.

    “The university puts a lot of the teaching responsibility on graduate students, and when there’s more fees for grad students, you’re going to have fewer grad students, fewer TAs and fewer sections for classes,” UCSA chair Matt Kaczmarek said.

    While undergraduate enrollment has increased by 100 percent in the past three decades, graduate enrollment has increased by only 7 percent, according to statistics from the UC Office of the President.

    “Our [undergraduate] classrooms in the recent decades have swelled to the size of small cruise ships,” said Heather Flowe, Graduate Student Association vice-president of external affairs. “[The] teaching load … is increasing for both graduate students and faculty, leaving less time for research and innovation. Under these conditions, recruiting the best faculty and students to the UC will become increasingly difficult.”

    The report claimed that there is a general misconception that earning a graduate or professional degree at a UC campus costs significantly less than at comparable institutions. UC stipends are on average $2,772 less than amounts offered by comparable schools, according to the report.

    In addition, the report also states that the cost of living in California leads most UC students to spend more than the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing. The report listed the cost of living at the UCSD campus as 134 percent above the average national cost of living.

    According to Flowe, if the governor’s proposals are passed, medical school students will incur another $15,000 in debt.

    “Increasing the burden of debt will force professional students in greater numbers to seek careers outside of the public service sector,” Flowe said. “If you have a mountain of debt to pay off, you need to go where you can earn the big bucks — in the private sector — to pay your loans back. We need to find ways to support students who want to have careers in public service and with non-profits.”

    According to Carol Hartupee, director of the School of Medicine financial aid office, the national average indebtedness for a medical school student in 2003 was $97,275. The average indebtedness for a student at the School of Medicine was $70,633.

    “There is a concern nationwide with rising debts for medical students,” Hartupee said.

    The report also argued that an increase in graduate and professional fees and a reduction in the number of such students would be detrimental for the California economy. UC research and development productivity gains between 2002 to 2011 have been estimated at $5.2 billion, which would result in 104,000 new jobs for the state, according to the report. The estimated impact of UC graduate students on the gross regional product in San Diego in the science and engineering workforce is $236 million, the report showed.

    Kaczmarek feels that the fee increases will encourage many students to pursue graduate and professional education in other states.

    “In the long term, this will cause the state to lose its competitive edge in many leading local sectors,” Kaczmarek said.

    The report concludes by urging the University of California to take several state initiatives, including maintaining the current fees and tuition rates for 2003-04, reducing graduate and professional student fees in the long term, creating a program of repayable fellowships for doctoral students who choose to teach in the state upon graduation, and increasing funding to university outreach programs.

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