Regents Table Tuition Increase For March Meeting

The future of tuition increases remains uncertain after a University of California Regent proposed a repeal of the controversial annual 5-percent hikes.

Former Assembly Speaker John Perez, who was appointed to the UC Board of Regents in 2014, moved to put the regents’ proposed tuition plan, which could increase student fees by 28 percent by 2019, on the agenda for the March meeting of the governing body.

Perez explained Wednesday that a budget gap between the UC system’s projected spending and the governor’s proposed budget could only get worse with tuition increases.

Raising tuition on the over 240,000 students who attend UC schools would only generate $100 million, though California Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to increase funding levels by $120 million on the condition that tuition does not go up. Therefore, says Perez, the problem is only exacerbated.

“We would be worse off,” Perez said Wednesday at the UC Regents meeting at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus.

The two-day meeting did not yield any major changes in spending or systemwide policy, though a proposal from UC President Janet Napolitano to tie athletic coaches’ salaries to academic performance of their athletes was shot down in a full session of the regents.

Napolitano’s plan would have prevented athletic directors and coaches from receiving bonuses from teams that perform well in tournaments and playoffs while those teams maintain poor enrollment and classroom evaluations of student-athletes.

The policy, as the San Francisco Gate described in a Thursday article posted online, would review athletic programs on a four-year basis with the criteria of athletes’ academic eligibility and opting to stay in school. Faculty would have been evaluated using the Academic Progress Rate, which assigns each student a score less than or equal to 1,000 based on their academic eligibility for their team and whether they stay in school. To be deemed ineligible for bonus pay, a coach’s team would need a four-year average APR below 930.

Additionally, the policy also allows each campus to offer its coaches and athletic directors financial incentives based on the overall six-year graduation rates of their student-athletes. 

Prior to this policy, which would have applied only to athletics staff whose contracts were new or recently renewed, bonuses were only attached to athletic performance. Therefore, coaches had no financial incentive to prioritize students’ academic success or lack thereof. 

However, some opponents of the policy, including the governor, lieutenant governor and Perez, believe that the standards in place under Napolitano’s proposed policy would be too low to have any meaningful effect.

“We’re doing almost nothing here under the illusion that we’re doing something,” California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said during the meeting.

The SF Gate reported that in 2013, UC Berkeley’s football and basketball teams had the worst graduation rates of 72 top athletic schools in the country. Napolitano’s proposal, which passed the regents in a smaller committee before being rejected by the full board, was composed in partial response to the UC Berkeley graduation issue.

UCSD Director of Athletics Earl Edwards said that implementation of the policy would have had little effect for Triton athletes due to pre-existing academic guidelines for athletes.

“We’ve just recently started utilizing traditional athletic scholarships, and all of our grants are tied into a GPA requirement of 2.6 or better which is a higher standard than you’ll find at the vast majority of institutions,” Edwards said.

In an email to the UCSD Guardian, Edwards added that he felt that the policy would really have only changed guidelines at one UC campus and that enforcement of the policy could have negative implications.

“Tying bonuses to something that’s somewhat required already by the NCAA and being reached by nearly every institution could be perceived as a reward for doing something you’re already supposed to be doing,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to this discussion, since it was tabled at the Regents Meeting, to see what other proposals may arise,” he said

Separately, the UC Board of Regents finalized a plan that would have Napolitano and Brown work together as a two-person team to work on improving the UC system’s finances.

“As the sole committee members, UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown plan to exchange ideas that will be informed by reports and testimony from external and internal experts and stakeholders, including UC faculty and students,” a statement on the UC Office of the President website posted on Thursday said.

The UC Board of Regents will meet again next in March at UCSF.