UCOP to call for increased aid return

Under a new policy proposal drafted by the UC Office of the President, the university could require portions of future self-assessed and campus-specific student fees to fund financial aid scholarships.

Currently, only tuition education fees return a portion to aid.

In an agenda item presented to the UC Board of Regents on Jan. 20, UCOP stated that it would submit final recommendations for expanding the university’s return-to-aid policy to the regents in March, with implementation by fall 2006.

“The university is engaged in a review of its policy on student referenda, including whether campuses should be required to set aside a portion of revenue from campus-based student fees for financial aid purposes,” the report stated.

These campus-based charges include fees collected by individual colleges and Associated Students, such as the Student Activities Fee, which pays for student activities and services specifically for UCSD students.

A.S. Vice President External Rigo Marquez said that the policy, while seemingly positive, has him worried about the exploitation of students.

“In theory, that is a great idea,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we want more money going back to financial aid? We just need to make sure that it’s properly done and that it’s going to the right places.”

While the extra funds would support undergraduate scholarships and ease the financial burden on low-income students, Marquez and A.S. President Jenn Pae said that the proposal is another way to shift even more of the costs of higher education onto students.

“In a time when we’re faced with tuition increases and financial aid reductions as a whole, students are having to rely on each other and to self-assess ourselves for things that we need on this campus and having to rely on referenda items and students’ pockets,” Pae said.

In response to the upcoming recommendation by UCOP, UCSD Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson requested that all new campus-based fee proposals include a discussion of the feasibility of adding such a section.

“The chances of a new campus-based fee being approved by UCOP is likely to be greater if the supporting documentation explicitly states that the impact of the fee on affordability, and the appropriateness or need for a return-to-aid component were carefully considered,” he stated in a letter sent to Associated Students, the Graduate Student Association and the college deans.

Though university tuition fees already contribute portions of their revenue to financial aid, this policy does not currently extend to fees collected on the campus level. These campus-based fees, however, are becoming more prevalent on university campuses due to state budget cuts, according to Marquez.

“The administration is not giving us what we need,” he said. “UCOP is not giving us what we need. The regents really aren’t. Students have no choice but to self-assess fees. And if they’re trying to have 32 percent of that go back to aid, that limits the amount of money that we’re getting.”

After the recommendation from UCOP, the Education Financing Model Group of the Board of Regents, which consists of both students and staff, will examine the proposal, according to Watson.

Such groups should not dictate how the university spends student fees, according to Marquez.

“UCOP should not have any authority on what it is that students do with their money,” Marquez said. “Students voted for that money. There is no reason why we should be told what to do with our fees and no one should try to take money out of our fees just because they want to offset other things.”

While the UCOP has said it plans to issue a recommendation backing an expanded return-to-aid policy, it has not yet done so.

“This is still just a proposal,” Watson said. “But it is a problem issue that is being discussed, and it is good that it has been brought to the attention of the students.”

UCOP spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina could not return calls for comment due to illness, according to her office.