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UC regents approve student fee increase

May 7, 2009 |  1:30 pm

Despite student protests, the University of California regents today approved a 9.3%, or $662, increase in most student fees for next year. Given the grim outlook for the state budget, the regents said, the only --  and much worse -- alternative was deep reductions in class offerings and student services.

"I don’t know where else to go. I simply do not know where to go," UC President Mark G. Yudof said of the fee hike during a regents meeting held by conference call from 13 locations around the state. He also insisted that expected increases in financial aid and federal tax credits would cover the fee hike for most students, even those from upper-middle-income families.

However, students denounced the raise, which would bring the average basic cost for an undergraduate UC education to about $8,720 a year, not including room, board and books. Including those other living costs, the overall annual price tag for students living in dorms would be about $25,000.

Lucero Chavez, a UC Berkeley law student who is president of the statewide UC Student Assn., noted that fees had doubled over the last decade and that while the basic fees might be comparable to those  at other public research universities around the country, high living costs in California make a UC education among the most expensive. Even if extra financial aid is available, she said, low- and middle- income students might be scared off by "sticker shock" and never even apply to UC or for the aid.

"There are only so many more steps before we privatize the university and that’s not where we want to go," Chavez said.

The regents voted 17 to 4 for the fee hikes. Regents Eddie Island, Odessa Johnson and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi as well as student regent D’Artagnan Scorza voted against it.

Years of steady fee increases threaten to change "the fundamental nature of the university," Island said.  "Access and affordability are slipping away."

Regents board Chairman Richard Blum and Yudof placed the blame on state government, which is expected to cut UC’s $3 billion in general revenue funding by at least $115 million next year and not cover an additional $200 million or more in increased salaries and other costs. They warned that the situation could get worse if voters later this month do not approve state ballot measures aimed at helping to close the state budget deficit.

-- Larry Gordon