Regents to Consider Proposed Professional Degree Fee Increases

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In addition to UC President Mark Yudof's proposed 8 percent systemwide student fee increase for the next academic year, the UC Office of the President outlined proposed professional degree fee increases running as high as 31 percent in an agenda item for the UC Board of Regents meeting posted Monday.

While about six schools' fees will decrease or remain the same for the 2011-12 academic year, most of the 49 schools affected by the changes - including UC Berkeley School of Law and Haas School of Business - will see an increase in fees that will raise more revenue for the schools to remain competitive, with eight of the 49 costing over 10 percent more than they did this year.

If the fee increases are approved by the board on Nov. 18, 27 of the professional schools' total costs will exceed those of comparable public programs, a move that will exceed established limits on total schooling costs put into place in 1994. The other 22 schools slated for fee increases will have total costs less than or equal to those of comparable programs and will fall within the regents' guidelines.

"We don't have much choice here," said Gunilla Haegerstrom-Portnoy, associate dean for academic affairs of UC Berkeley's School of Optometry, which received a 12 percent proposed fee increase. "All the professional schools are being forced to use professional degree fees."

Among the hardest hit by the potential increases are the university's nursing schools, which will each require $5,730 per year in professional degree fees, representing a 31 percent increase for UCSF and a 20 percent increase for the UC Davis, UCLA and UC Irvine nursing schools.

In addition to the increases, the office has proposed the elimination of differential educational fees by profession, a process that UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in an e-mail will be cost-neutral to students.

Current professional school students pay one of five amounts depending on residency and profession, ranging from $9,312 per year for law schools to $10,650 for public health schools. If the new policy is approved, professional school students will pay equivalent fees to those resident undergraduate and graduate students pay, with the differential fees being added to or subtracted from professional degree fees.

The history of professional school fee increases can be traced back to January 1994, when the regents approved a Policy on Fees for Selected Professional School Students, authorizing special fees for professional schools whose students earn degrees that benefit both themselves and the state financially.

Degrees are designated as professional due to their practice-oriented, skill-centered nature that is different from more traditional degrees' theoretical or academic focus.

"Professional degree fee revenue is used for support of the basic operating budget of the school," Vazquez said in the e-mail. "It is combined with State funds and other funds to support all operating costs of the school."

Four departments - including the UC Berkeley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and UCLA Department of Art - will institute professional degree fees for the first time in the 2011-12 academic year as part of the multiyear plans reviewed by the regents in 2010.

Despite the fee increases' potential to raise student debt, some see the additional revenue generated by the increases as worth the effort, especially because one-third of all professional degree fees are appropriated toward financial aid.

"Exemplary financial aid means that access and freedom of career choice can be maintained despite the higher fees," said Berkeley Law spokesperson Susan Gluss.

But doubts remain over the potential effects of the proposed fee increases on admissions, student debt and on restricting the career paths of public interest professionals.

"You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," Haegerstrom-Portnoy said.

Tags: FEE INCREASES, UCSF, HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS, UC BOARD OF REGENTS, UC BERKELEY SCHOOL OF LAW, UC OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, MARK YUDOF, PROFESSIONAL SCHOOLS


Contact True Shields at [email protected]



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