These are the comments that Student Regent Jesse Bernal made at teh Regents Meeting today about the student fee increases that were on the table during Committee on Finance. I know, it’s amazing – we think about these things and write them out ahead of time!
Since the year 2000, student fees have increased a nearly 215% within UC. Our segment partners have experienced even higher increases of nearly 280% within CSU, and 235% among community college systems in the last 10 years. Affordability in California’s public higher education systems is severely being threatened. I appreciate this item’s openness, transparency, and bluntness. According to this very item, by 2010, with the proposed fee increases, the UC will be less affordable for undergraduates than two of our four public comparison institutions and graduate education less affordable than three of four.
As a student who on principle opposes fee increases, let me say that I understand the situation this Board is presented with. Our Board and Administration have been forced to make tough decisions. No one wanted to approve furloughs. And I know no one at this table wants to increase fees. I want to reiterate and reaffirm a comment Regent Lansing made during the Chair’s remarks: Decisions at this table, by these Regents, by this Administration, by our President, are thoughtfully made while caring and caring deeply for our students.
As we know, the percentages I have mentioned regarding fee increases in the three segments are not matched with corresponding increases in State education spending. Instead, the State, not the Regents, increasingly places the burden of financing education on students. The State is an unreliable partner, not only with the UC, but also with its student constituents.
While I know fee decisions are sometimes necessary, I believe a mid-year fee increase is wrong. Education is not purchased on a quarter by quarter or semester by semester basis… it’s purchased year by year and increasing fees during a time when enrollment has already commenced for the year is unfair. Students are locked into their college attendance decision by this time… students at Berkeley and Merced have already started their school year… students are effectively not given the option to seek out less costly education this year.
I want to applaud Chair Lozano, the President and his administration on presenting this budget and fee prospects for the 2010-11 year with such advanced warning. While fees are unwanted, fee predictability is something students have been seeking for years and eases anxiety and provides an opportunity for not only planning but also consultation, collaboration, and messaging. As fees approach six-figures for the first time in our history over the next year, we must be concerned that a sticker-shock effect may deter our disadvantaged students from even applying to UC. While moving forward we must get the right message out to students and California families. The message must be made even clear: low-income families in the State will not be effected by fee increases. The outstanding Blue & Gold plan ensures this. The other Jesse and I will work as openly and effectively with the President and his staff to ensure that all students but especially our educationally and economically disadvantaged students hear this message.
While moving forward over the next couple of months, I hope our Chancellors will work to include students in their already on-going budget discussions with faculty and staff. I hope our Chancellors will not only inform our students of likely fee increases and direct impacts to their education but will also seek consultation with students through a similar process we saw with faculty and staff regarding furloughs. Our hope and know our President will continue to be open to new ideas and I encourage our students to examine these documents, become well-informed, and to work with us and others in protecting quality at the UC and advocating for a reinvestment of higher education in this State.