Board of Regents approves 14-percent fee increase

    The UC Board of Regents approved the fee increases proposed by the recent compact reached between UC President Robert C. Dynes and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the board’s meeting on May 20. Resident undergraduate fees will increase by 14 percent in the 2004-05 academic year and by 8 percent in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years. The Board of Regents approved the increases 14-2 after the Finance Committee deadlocked 5-5 on the issue on May 19.

    “The fee increases approved today are significant, and I know they will have an impact on many families,” Dynes said in a May 20 statement. “We are striving, to the best of our ability given the state’s fiscal crisis, to preserve quality, accessibility and the university’s contributions to the economy, health and quality of life of California.”

    Student Regent Matt Murray, in his final meeting as a full voting member of the board, voted against the fee increase proposal to “make a point about the budget,” saying that he disagreed with Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for California.

    “This is part of a larger proposal by the governor that would place the burden of the state’s budget problems on the people who can least afford it and protect those who can most afford it,” Murray said. “The people who can most afford it aren’t sharing in solving the state’s problem, and I think that’s inequitable and that it’s terrible public policy, and I think that there needs to be people saying that.”

    Murray and Regent George Marcus, who also voted against the increases, said they felt that the agreement could undermine the efforts of legislators attempting to provide the university with additional funding during the upcoming budget revision.

    The potential reduction in the percentage of new fees returned to financial aid also concerned Murray. The compact proposes that the Regents determine what percentage of fee increases is returned to financial aid. The percentage would have to be between 20 percent and 33 percent, while in the past no less than 33 percent of fee increases have gone to financial aid.

    “I think that it’s sad,” Murray said. “It’s another step toward limiting access to the university, and I don’t think that there’s anyone in the university who thinks that that’s what we really should be doing as a state … I think low-income and especially middle-income students will be squeezed by these fee increases. I’m personally especially dismayed by the reduction in financial aid. I think that’s going to be particularly damaging and troubling.”

    According to Jessica Lopez, an organizer for the San Diego Stop the Cuts coalition, student groups are planning to protest the fee increases through phone-in and fax-in campaigns to the Legislature. The organization is also planning a rally to protest the fees on June 1, when State Treasurer Phil Angelides and former gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington are expected to speak at UCSD.

    “We know that if we move the Legislature we have a better chance of moving the regents and the trustees,” Lopez said. “None of the Regents are going to vote against the ridiculous compact. The Regents have never been on our side, and no one expected them to come through this time. We have to build more student power across the state until we can affect the millionaires and billionaires on the board.”

    Regents Ward Connerly and Tom Sayles voted for the measures after voting “no” in the Finance Committee meeting on May 19, while Regent David S. Lee and ex-officio Regent Fabian Núñez, who opposed the fee proposal in committee, were not present during the full board meeting.

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