UC delays professional fee vote

The UC Board of Regents deferred a vote last week that would have determined whether tuition for UC professional school students would increase by as much as 7 percent for the 2005-06 school year.

Jason Campa
Taking a hike?:

Noting that several regents with interest in the issue were absent from the meeting, Chairman Gerald L. Parsky announced that a special board meeting would be scheduled for an undetermined time for the presentation of the two proposed increases, according to a UC Office of the President press release.

Last November, the regents approved a 3-percent professional-school tuition increase to help make up for the $500 million in state budget cuts. Should the new items pass, tuition for some professional-school students would be raised by a full 10 percent in the 2005-06 academic school year.

If approved, the action would raise an approximate $3.7 million dollars for UC professional schools, in addition to the $37 million generated by the 2004-05 fee increases. Twenty-five percent of the revenue raised by these new fees would go toward financial aid for needy students, according to the proposal. The rest of the money would be earmarked for addressing budget problems and continuing efforts to maintain program quality.

However, UCOP is not ruling out more fee increases in the future.

“The financial circumstances of the program are severe and will require greater fee increases over time,” the UCOP proposal stated.

Speakers at a regents meeting last week expressed a variety of concerns about the issue, including the duration, timing and necessity of the potential fee imposition on graduate students.

“We can’t expect the state legislature to start shoveling money at the professional schools,” said UC Berkeley’s Boalt Law School Dean Christopher Edley. “So the question is, how do we finance our programs?”

Also presented at the meeting was a comparison of UC schools with their competitors, which indicated that both tuition levels and professors’ salaries are lower than those at public universities of similar standing.

UCLA Anderson School of Management Dean Bruce Willison explained that the UC system was charging less than half of its competitors’ tuition back in 2003. Since 2000, there has been a 5-percent reduction in UC faculty, partially attributed to reduced salaries.

“We are concerned that the budget has been reduced,” said Anthony Manoguerra, associate dean for student affairs at UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy, the only professional school to experience a fee increase under the proposal. “It’s a balancing act between the debt of our students and the negative impact on the school if the fees are not increased.”

Around 95 percent of students who attend UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy are receiving financial aid, according to Manoguerra. It is unclear at this time what effects financial aid might have on the accessibility of professional school to those students, he added.

The largest increases under the proposal would be in the cost of UCLA’s business and UC Berkeley’s law schools, which could see their yearly tuitions increase by as much as $1,163 each.

“The question for the regents is whether or not you want at least one first-class law school in the UC system,” Edley said. “We would implore the regents to be maximally flexible.”

While some UC officials at the meeting questioned whether professional-school fee increases were the only way to maintain the quality of university programs, all agreed that increased revenue was a necessary goal.

“We need the ability to keep those fees to finance the programs that will help us strive for excellence,” Willison said.