No End in Sight

UNIVERSITY ISSUES With another fee hike on the table, UC students must learn from past action to present the best response.

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Set? Hike.

With the staggering 32 percent fee increase from last year still on the minds of many students, UC President Mark Yudof's announcement Monday that the university is seeking an 8 percent raise next academic year probably came as an unwelcome shock.

On one hand, UC administrators facing a $1 billion deficit systemwide could certainly have levied a larger fee hike similar to last year's level. Still, the fact that increases at any rate have become an expected annual event continues to be deeply concerning.

This time around, however, Yudof's proposal is strategically smart and progressively considerate. The fee increase is packaged with an expansion of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which currently promises to cover systemwide fees for UC students whose families make below $70,000. If Yudof's request is approved, the plan will include families who make up to $80,000. Furthermore, the fee increase would be delayed one year for families making between $80,000 and $120,000. At the very least, this proposal reflects administrators' awareness that fee increases affect different students by differing degrees that are often dictated by income.

That being said, we do not want to present the university in a more positive light than it deserves for this approach, especially in regard to extensions of financial aid. The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan relies on federal and state financial aid programs in addition to university funds. Additionally, many students who qualify for this guarantee often rely on loans for the increasing costs of living, textbooks and food.

We also realize that we have been significantly desensitized by fee increases since the previously unthinkable 32 percent hike was implemented last year. It is critical to note that if Yudof's proposal to increase student fees by 8 percent had been presented two years ago, it would have appeared much less acceptable by both ourselves and by the university community as a whole.

This desensitization highlights a conceptual issue we take with this latest proposed fee hike. If this one is also approved, there is no guarantee it will resolve systemic issues or even prevent other increases in the near future. Looking at recent university history as an undeniable indication, we have no guarantee that this ongoing fee incline will ever end for UC students and their families.

Last year we were shocked when fees were pushed to break the $10,000 mark annually. Just a year later, we are well past that point now: if Yudof's plan goes through the grand total for UC fees will be $11,124 systemwide. Sure, targeted middle income families have a year to prepare for the additional 8 percent that could be asked of them. Yet this proposal does not take anything else off of the table - midyear fee increases could still be a possibility in this ongoing fiscal crisis.

This grim reality leaves us as students with the same question we have been battling for the last several semesters: What really can be done? Just as the university seems to be learning to better implement fee raises, the campus community should take the most successful parts of its past protests. A cohesive and constructive response to the latest episode in this ongoing issue must be developed to present a thoughtful and persuasive message to California's voters.

We do not discourage protests. We absolutely agree that university officials should be accountable for their actions and realize the repercussions of their policies. Yet students systemwide should realize what we have emphasized before: The more vocal and convincing we are as a whole, the more aware the people will be of the issue. The voters we can reach have the power to elect people who can make this essential goal a non-negotiable priority.

The cycle of action and reaction continues in the fee increase saga. At the end of the day, California must place more value in higher education to have an able and ready workforce for the future. Let us go forth with a compelling message that conveys why we are absolutely worth that investment.


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