Proposed Bills May Limit Fee Increases For UC Students

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Student fee increases of the magnitude of last semester's 32-percent hike would be a thing of the past under two bills proposed last week by Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, though they would require an amendment to the state's constitution.

The pair of bills known together as the Student Protection Act would limit the size of student fee increases to 10 percent per year and impose a 180-day wait period between the increases' approval and their implementation.

"We need this to protect students and to end the egregious student fee increase practice that has been adopted by the board of regents," said Adam Keigwin, chief of staff to Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, who is co-authoring the bill.

But UC officials are hesitant to cap fee increases, saying it would only limit the university's options in dealing with future declines in state funding and force cuts to other areas of the university, according to UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez.

The concern over additional cuts is shared by Adrian Griffin, the assistant director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission. Although he says fee increases should be kept moderate, he fears reducing the revenue from student fees could lead universities to reduce enrollment to avoid further cuts.

"If it is a tough budget year and there isn't the money there from tax revenue, the UC wouldn't have the option to choose the lesser of two evils," Griffin said. "(The university) is told the evil it must choose."

But there are other places universities could find savings if state funding declines before affecting students, according to Jann Taber, spokesperson for Denham.

"There is plenty of waste at the administrative level that could be cut and properties that could be sold," Taber said.

Because the Legislature has no direct authority over the UC, a constitutional amendment would need to be approved by voters before the proposed limits on fee increases go into effect.

Stripping the university of its legal autonomy has been the goal of previous legislation proposed by Yee, but those efforts have failed in the past.

"The will of the people's representatives should be able to effect that kind of change," Keigwin said. "The Legislature's hands are tied on all things UC, and that is just very undemocratic."


Javier Panzar covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected]

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