SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tuition at the University of California’s 10 campuses would increase by as much as 5 percent in each of the next five years under a plan UC President Janet Napolitano unveiled Thursday.
Rates have remained frozen for the past three years.
Under Napolitano’s plan, the average annual cost of a UC education for California residents pursuing undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees in academic as opposed to professional disciplines would jump from $12,192 to $12,804 next fall and $15,564 in fall 2019.
Critics said the proposal would be too much of a burden for students.
Napolitano said the five-year framework fulfills a goal she set when she assumed the president’s office last year of making “modest” tuition hikes a predictable part of the university’s budget so families and campuses can know what to expect and plan accordingly.
“We are being honest, being honest with Californians in terms of cost and also ensuring that we are continuing to maintain the University of California in terms of academic excellence,” she told The Associated Press.
The money will allow UC to cover rising retirement costs and hire more faculty staff to meet the needs of its growing student body that reached more than 238,400 students in 2013, according to the plan. It also will allow the system to enroll 5,000 more California undergraduates over the next five years.
No tuition hike would be necessary if the state boosts its funding enough, said Bruce Varner, chairman of the Board of Regents.
The state has slashed its funds for UC by nearly $1 billion since the recession began in 2007. Some of that has been restored, but state funding for educating UC students remains $460 million lower than it was six years ago.
The state has increased its funding for the UC system by 5 percent each year since 2013 and Gov. Jerry Brown has said state funds for UC will go up by 4 percent each year over the next two years if tuition rates remain frozen through June of 2017. It was unclear Thursday what would happen if Napolitano’s plan is approved, but the UC president has said the upcoming 4 percent increases are not enough.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to consider Napolitano’s plan at its Nov. 19 meeting.
“I’m measurably disappointed and I feel like we’ve learned nothing from the economic crisis that allowed us to begin looking inward to look at reforms to negate stacking up more debt on the backs of students, particularly middle-class students who will bear the brunt of this increase,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the UC Board of Regents.
He added that UC recently approved substantial pay raises for chancellors.
Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, who also sits on the Board of Regents, vowed to vote against it, saying “it is disturbing to see students used as leverage in budget negotiations.”
The University of California Student Association said the proposal is asking Brown to uphold his end of the bargain while the UC wants to break its side of the agreement to keep rates frozen.
“Students fail to see how this plan provides any greater level of predictability than today’s current situation,” the association said in a statement.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said “the state should definitely make larger investments but the UC system also has to become more efficient.”
UC has taken measures that have saved the system $660 million since 2007, according to the plan.
For every additional $20 million in state funding, the planned tuition increase could be reduced by 1 percent, UC spokesman Steve Montiel said.
Napolitano noted financial aid fully covers tuition for nearly 55 percent of UC undergraduates.