UC Marked by History of Fee Increases

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Analysis: Fee increases

City News Editor Amy Brooks speaks with Chris Carrassi about the fee increases and their effects.

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A long history of fee hikes for University of California students is likely to continue with the expected passage of the largest fee increase in 18 years at the UC Board of Regents' meeting that begins today.

On the agenda for the three-day meeting held at UCLA is a proposal to raise mandatory fees by 15 percent for spring 2010, an increase that will be extended to a full 32 percent increase relative to current fee levels by next fall semester.

Mandatory fees for the 2010-11 academic year would jump to $10,302 for residents and $11,160 for nonresidents.

The proposed increases will be discussed and voted on by the board's committee on finance Wednesday.

If it is approved by the full board Thursday, the increase would continue a decades-long trend which has seen resident undergraduate student fees skyrocket 300 percent since 2001.

The board has approved resident fee increases 22 times since 1975, half of which were by more than 10 percent. During the same period, fees were also lowered three times.

UC officials have consistently pointed to the historic decline in state funding, particularly a $637.1 million decrease for 2009-10, as the impetus for higher fees.

As a share of UC core funds, which are comprised of state funds, student fees, endowment payouts and other sources of income, state funding has dropped by about 30 percent in the period between 1985 and 2006, according to report written by the UC Academic Council in 2006.

The report's figures indicate that large dips in state funding occurred during tough economic times, such as those in the early 1990s and 2000s.

"It is important to note that, despite some (economic) recovery, the state contribution as a share of UC core funds in the early 2000s did not recover to its level of the early 1990s," the report states.

While faculty and student input have been considered during the budget process, the regents administer and decide the amount of fee increases at their discretion, according to UC officials.

"It's really a balancing act, a combination of actions to try and solve a budget shortfall while maintaining the quality of the institution," said UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez.

The fee increases to be voted on this week are expected to generate more than $500 million, according to the proposed UC operations budget. While $175 million would be directed towards financial aid, the rest would address "state budget reductions, mandatory cost increases and other pressing needs."

Vazquez added that revenue generated from the proposed fee hikes would go toward student services, expanding library hours and hiring faculty across the 10-campus system.

In 1975, annual student fees for resident undergraduates were $600. Adjusted for inflation, that is only $2,408, slightly more than a third of what resident students currently pay.

But fees have barely risen since 1971, when adjusted for increases in California per capita personal income, according to findings in the 2010-11 UC operations budget.

And along with student fees, the amount of average gift aid­, such as grants and scholarships, has increased from about $7,500 a year in 1999 to a little more than $10,000 in 2008, according to the 2009 UC Accountability Report. About one half of all UC students received some form of gift aid in 2008.

"What the university has strived to do is have a very robust financial aid program to mitigate the impact of higher fees," Vazquez said.


Contact Chris Carrassi at [email protected]

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