New Law Will Alert Students to Fee Hikes

The bill was introduced as a response to the many mid-year tuition hikes that the two state university systems have faced in recent years.

“Between 1990 and 2009, costs for a University of California student living on-campus rose by 70 percent,” AB 970 reads. “Costs for a California State University student living with his or her family rose by over 80 percent. In this period, median family income in California grew by only 16 percent.”

Under the original AB 970, drafted by Fong and the Student Associations, the UC Board of Regents would have to publicly propose a fee increase 90 days before voting on it. They would also have to vote six months before the increase went into effect. Amendments to the bill have drained the required minimum period between the vote and the fee increase: It currently stands at 30 days.

UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, from the UC Office of the President, said short-notice fee increases during the school year were necessary given the difficult economic times. “We can no longer rely upon the state of California as a consistent source of funding. A six-month window would be unreasonable,” he said.

The UCOP has consistently voiced its reservations about AB 970. In a letter to the State Assembly sent on June 23, 2011, UCOP criticized the measure for containing restrictions on the Regents, but no provisions for increasing state funding.

“Without a broader plan to develop a stable and predictable program of state support, [AB 970] is illusory.”

Under AB 970, the UC Regents’ fee increase proposals must include three things: justification, thorough analysis of impact on underrepresented students and a statement specifying what the increased fees will be used for.

UCSA Board Member Raquel Morales, a senior at UCSD, said in a video on Gov. Brown’s website that AB 970 was something students and families of students have wanted for a long time.

“They simply want to have the opportunity to defend their education and engage themselves in the process,” Morales said.

Promoting student engagement and increasing transparency from the Regents are the two major goals of AB 970, its supporters say.

“We need dialogue,” Morales stated in the video.

But Montiel said that even though students may express their perspectives under the modified provisions of AB 970, they don’t have veto power. He also said he thought there was already a great deal of transparency.

“We already have representation. We already consult with student leadership. It may be distasteful, but it’s very transparent, even without AB 970. The truth is, no one gets excited about tuition hikes.”

According to 66028.7 (a) of AB 970, a consultation is defined as a formal meeting in which fee hike information is given, not one in which students have the power to blunt any tuition increases.

“Nothing in these sections shall be construed to exempt any increase in mandatory system-wide fees.”