Guest Commentary: Funding the UC

Associated Students VP External Allyson Osorio calls students to action to protest the proposed 5 percent tuition hikes on Tuesday, Nov. 18. 

This Wednesday, Nov. 19, the University of California Board of Regents will be voting on the “five-year tuition and fee stability plan” that has been proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano. This plan would establish fee increases up to 5 percent for the next five years, amounting to about 27 percent in total, contingent on the expected 4 percent UC allocation received from the state. It would be implemented the next academic school year, meaning our annual tuition would rise up to $16,000 by the 2019-20 school year. Financial aid officers and the UC Office of the President continue to reassure students that receive financial aid that they will not be impacted. However, it seems like the word “impact” has a different meaning to students than to the UCOP.

UCOP describes this plan as something that all students and families from all levels of study could budget for. It’s important to remember that financial aid in the UC system involves loans and work-study — a few things that aren’t feasible to all UC students. In the UC system, tuition only makes up about half of the cost. The reality is that aside from tuition, the cost of living in California and room and board are just a few other things that students worry about. For some time now, UCOP has lacked the understanding of the true impact of its fiscal decisions on the student body.

For many years, the University of California Student Association has worked on many campaigns and supported legislation that lobbies for funding from the state. Campaigns like Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration, Transform Education and Fund the UC continuously advocate for higher education in the state of California. The state has not been listening to students and UCOP has not been helping. California has continuously disinvested in higher education. We’ve seen rapid growth in prisons yet not nearly enough growth in the future of California. This disinvestment in higher education does not mean current and future students should be paying the price, but it does mean something is not working in California. Where are our priorities and how can we bring balance into the arenas that need help?

The UCOP should not be using students for the $98 million budget gap. Instead of just being political pawns, students should have a seat at the table with UCOP and the UC Regents on a plan that could bring growth into the availability, accessibility and quality of the UC system. Closing the budget shortfall should fall on the responsibility of the UCOP, the UC Regents and the California Legislature — not on the backs of students. The Master Plan is failing all Californians and it’s time everyone works on this issue as a collective unit.

Just because we are the best public education institution does not mean we can’t be better. We should not be comparing ourselves to other institutions if we really want to bring innovation and growth to the state of California. At UCSD, we learn to work hard, produce research and indulge in our networks. If students can do it, UCOP and California can do the same to figure out this gap without students’ money. Does it really cost more than $12,000 for us to attend a UC school?

The students of California in all three tiers of higher education have brought a lot to the state. It is time the state and the UC system work together to bring something back to the future of California.

Please join us on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 11:30am on Library Walk for our “sit-in” to show everyone in California that all students will indeed be impacted. It’s not on us to fund the UC system.