Tuition Fee Policy Needed to Guard Student Interests

When the UC Regents meet on March 14, millions of dollars of student money will be in their hands. In Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s January budget proposal, he recommended that undergraduate student fees be raised 7 percent for the 2007-08 academic year, with some UC law and business programs facing 10-percent hikes. However, California’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, urged that fees only be increased 2.4 percent for all programs, arguing that given the absence of an explicit policy on student fee increases, fees should continue to cover the same share of educational costs. The LAO’s increase would account for inflation.

It is time for the regents to formulate a fee policy that is more transparent than their current “”compact”” with Schwarzenegger, which stipulates that fees always rise in accordance with California’s per-capita income (not inflation rates) in addition to increases (up to 10 percent total) that the board feels the UC system needs.

Essentially, this means that under the compact, the regents can raise student fees up to 10 percent per year with very limited accountability.

It’s no secret that the regents and the state of California have been leaning on students to subsidize the university’s bills at their discretion.

However, an explicit fee policy from the board that protects student interests in the face of much more powerful political actors would reflect an attitude of respect toward the population that gives the university its leverage as the premier educator of California’s future.