The University of California Board of Regents voted on Thursday to approve a plan increasing tuition beginning in the fall of 2022 and continuing for five years, at which time it will be up for a revote. The plan, which has been in the works since 2019, but was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, raises tuition and fees for incoming undergraduate classes by 2 percent plus inflation. Rate hikes would cap out at 5 percent and would last six years per class.
Governor Gavin Newsom has opposed tuition increases, instead allotting a 3 percent base funding increase for the UC and California State University systems to close budget gaps deepened by the pandemic. That amounts to a roughly $1.3 billion funding increase for the ten campuses of the UC system—its largest ever single-year increase.
Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis tweeted her reaction to the Regents’ vote this afternoon saying that she was “disappointed,” and that “it’s the wrong time to ask students and families to pay more.”
Yet, the Board of Regents voted to continue with its Tuition Stability Plan. In a report on the increases, the Board estimates a 4.2 percent (or $534) increase in tuition and student services fees for the incoming freshman class of 2022-23, which it argues would in fact keep tuition increases lower for subsequent incoming classes. Moreover, the report argues that the plan would reduce student debt by $1,746 compared to leaving tuition rates unchanged.
Student debt remains a major concern for the UC system and its matriculates alike. An October 2020 report by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) found that 62 percent of college seniors graduating in 2019 had some amount of student loans, and owed an average of $28,950 nationwide. The report further highlights a racial gap in student debt, stating that for the class of 2016, Black graduates “had almost $8,000 more in cumulative debt than white graduates, up from a gap of $5,100 at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008.”
According to the UC Regents, 56 percent of undergraduates pay no tuition, even though 6 percent of undergrads receiving financial aid experience homelessness during at least one year of their attendance. The Board approved an amendment to the plan that would reinvest 45 percent of revenue from the new tuition hikes back into students in the form of increased aid.
“Right as students and families continue to struggle to recover from the adverse impacts of this pandemic, this proposal would lock-in inequitable fee increases for the foreseeable future,” the University of California Student Association said about the proposed plan, which it calls the “Forever Hike.”
Outgoing UCSA president Aidan Arasasingham has repeatedly called on the Board of Regents to tackle the larger issue of college affordability, adding that the tuition increases “will not meet the post-COVID needs of students and families.”
As the Associated Press notes, UC President Michael Drake has said that tuition at UC schools remains lower than comparable public universities across the country (University of Virginia and University of Michigan among them), and that UC tuition increases over the last decade have been a fraction of their counterparts’ increases.
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