Graduate Schools May Add Professional Degree Fees

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In a move officials said would maintain the competitiveness of UC Berkeley graduate academic programs, some campus colleges and schools may add professional degree fees for the first time beginning next school year.

Fees for the professional programs at nine schools, including, for the first time, the College of Environmental Design, the School of Social Welfare and the School of Information, may be approved by the UC Board of Regents for 2010-11 at its next meeting in November. Some officials said the introduction of fees is a response to the difficult budgetary situation some programs are facing.

While the School of Social Welfare is seeking approval for a professional fee of $4,000, the College of Environmental Design is seeking approval for a $6,000 fee. The proposed fee at the college would only affect professional master's programs, meaning students pursuing doctoral degrees and a Master of Science in Architecture would not be charged.

If the proposed fee is approved, the College of Environmental Design will use 33 percent of fee revenue for financial aid, as mandated by the university. Dean Jennifer Wolch said in a statement the remaining 67 percent will be used to improve academic programs and infrastructure in the college.

Other professional schools on campus, such as the Haas School of Business and the Boalt Hall School of Law, have charged professional fees for years. For the next school year, Haas is seeking approval for a 13 percent professional degree fee increase for resident students, according to the proposal provided to the regents.

In an Oct. 9 letter to students, Wolch said feedback from students, staff and faculty was used to construct the $6,000 fee proposal. Student surveys were administered in spring 2006 and spring 2008 to gauge student response to a professional degree fee, she said.

The 2008 survey was conducted to determine whether students supported the proposal for a $2,000 professional degree fee. Of the 40 percent of students who responded to the survey, 70 percent supported the fee because it could result in a better educational experience and better facilities, said graduate student Meghan Sharp.

"Our program struggles for funding," said Sharp, who is pursuing a master's degree in landscape architecture. "There's a very minimal amount of aid available, and I think they want to use these funds (to support) students."

While many students who responded to the survey were in favor of the $2,000 fee, Sharp said current students may not be as supportive of the proposed $6,000 fee.

Last spring, the initial fee proposal was increased to $4,000 and has now risen to $6,000. However, students were not given time to comment on the new fee proposal before it was sent to the regents in September, said landscape architecture graduate student Catherine Sherraden.

She added that the dean is using a "state of emergency argument" to justify the move.

While many students wanted to discuss the proposal before it went to the regents, some said they realize the immediate need for the fee.

"It may just be a sort of necessary evil, at least for the time being," said graduate student John McGill, who is in the Master of Architecture program.

In the Oct. 9 letter, Wolch said she would hold a town hall meeting to share more details about the potential fee.

Sherraden said she hopes students' concerns will be addressed at the meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 5.

"We believe that the dean was brought in because she is a good fundraiser," Sherraden said. "But right now she's just raising funds from students."


Contact Stephanie Baer at [email protected]

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