Fishing For Cash

Illustration by Annie Liu
Illustration by Annie Liu

The proposed raises to undergraduate tuition will harm students, while lining the pockets of already wealthy administrators and UC Regents.

Illustration by Annie Liu
Illustration by Annie Liu

The UC Board of Regents is considering a plan to hike tuition to over $15,000 in the next five years, leaving us unsurprised but certainly disappointed that our administration has the fiscal sense of a 9-year-old asking for more allowance. 

The increase has been nauseatingly predictable ever since the regents did not receive as much funding as they would have liked from this year’s state budget. The funding gap was only furthered by Gov. Brown recently vetoing a bonus of $50 million that had been granted to fix up University of California facilities, leading many to fret that the state is disinvesting from its own higher education system.

And while it’s true that the state should be the number one investor in the UC system over private donors, the UC administration is equally responsible for managing funding in a sustainable way — and shaking down undergraduates by their ankles for more tuition does not meet the criteria.

The administrative pouting over the vetoed $50 million is the first unsustainable behavior to criticize because the saliency of our budget should not depend on tentative bonuses, and the sum is overall paltry in a budget of over $2 billion.

However, the reaction from the regents over the veto is telling of why the fight for funding has escalated to this degree. In his term in office, Gov. Brown dangled the promise of additional funding in front of the UC system if the administration could keep its hands in its own pockets.

Now, the administration is retaliating at the state’s overreaching and underfunding, and students are being used as pawns in the contest. The tinkling match between the two entities needs to be resolved through a cooperative effort to improve the UC system with both more investment on the government’s side and better management on the school’s part.

Exploiting students and using their outrage as a bargaining tool is decidedly not a reasonable part of the process.

To add insult to injury, the regents proposed last month a plan to fund a $250 million endowment for investing in start-up businesses called UC Ventures. It became immediately clear that UC Ventures was not a replacement for tuition hikes, despite the possibility of profits in the millions.

Since the endowment will focus on businesses that stem from research done on campus, it seems students will work the low-paid research positions that make UC Ventures possible, paying more to attend the university yet seeing none of the profit spent on their immediate educational needs.

The UC Regents should be further embarrassed by the fact that news of the tuition plan came only days after the announcement of expanded benefits for its top-tier employees which already include housing, car stipends and salaries well into the $600,000 to $800,000 range. 

The increase in tuition will be used to pay for retirement benefits and expanded employee salaries. To no one’s surprise, the campus officials who stand to gain from such an expansion have already penned a letter of support for the tuition increases. Apparently what is and what is not considered a modest tuition raise looks different when your home, car and retirement are paid for.

Tuition increases are not the reliable flow of income the UC system claims it needs. By overburdening students, the administration is encouraging them to choose schools outside of the UC system and even outside the state, diminishing the base of students who can contribute to the state’s economy and will eventually pay the taxes that keep the school system afloat.

The only form of concession in the regents’ plan is that scheduled tuition raises will likely preclude unscheduled and exorbitant increases in their place. However, consenting to any kind of increase without a fight opens the door to further raises of tuition and fees down the line.

UC students’ last recourse is a demonstration against the actions of the university, in spite of the fact that administrators have said that no amount of student input will change their decision. It’s the final nail in the coffin to be told that student opinion has no value in the operations of the university, and that revelation should be enough to spur the kind of anger we need to affect change in the future.

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