State Legislature to Decide Control of Student Fees

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A state commission unanimously approved recommendations yesterday allowing state legislators to decide on regulations governing long-term student fee increases, paving the way for further UC fee raises.

If Gov. Gray Davis and state legislators adopt the California Postsecondary Education Commission's recommendations, the UC Board of Regents and the California State University Board of Trustees will have more control over student fee increases at California public universities.

The UC Board of Regents in particular will gain the ability to "set and adjust fees," according to Karl Engelbach, the commission's chief policy analyst.

In contrast, CSU will still have to seek budget approval from the state Legislature.

The shift in authority is necessary because fee increases have been influenced more by the state's current economic situation than by policy, according to Engelbach.

"Right now student fees are driven largely by political decisions and the budget process," he said. "We believe that student fees should be policy-driven, not politically driven or driven by the state budget, so that's why we're recommending that the governing boards assume greater responsibility."

The recommendations also attempt to regulate the amount by which fees are allowed to increase.

"Essentially it calls for student fees increases to be gradual, moderate and predictable," Engelbach said.

Both the UC Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees supported the proposed policies of the commission.

"The fee levels at the university have really been dictated largely by the dramatic ups and downs of the state's budget situation," said UC spokesperson Brad Hayward. "Although that's understandable, it also reduces (students') ability to plan for paying for college."

UC projected a 6.5 percent increase in student fees back in November. In light of California's current budget crisis-the state faces a potential $21 billion budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year-the UC Regents may have to increase student fees even more.

"We said that (student fee increases) could be higher or be lower or not (change) at all depending on the state's budget situation," Hayward said. "(The proposed increase) is not something that reflects the realities that we (the state) will be facing. We don't know what those realities will be yet."


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