Thursday, March 11, 2010
If professional schools within the University of California want to raise student fees, they might soon be allowed to set new prices by considering what private universities are charging.
Current UC policy requires that new fees be no higher than the average cost of comparable public schools.
But when UC’s regents meet in San Francisco later this month, they will consider changing the policy by removing one word: “public.”
That’s likely going to make the cost of studying medicine, law, business or any number of other careers more expensive – and out of reach for many, say UC graduate students.
“Stereotypes of wealthy doctors, lawyers and business professionals are contradictory to the realities of average starting salaries in today’s times,” according to a lengthy objection to the proposed policy written by the UCLA Graduate Students Association.
Law students graduate with an average debt load of $92,937, yet recent graduates earn a median salary of just $62,500, the statement says, citing a 2008 report from the National Association for Law Placement.
The students also make the point that with such high debt, many graduates are unable to work in public service. But UC’s interim provost, Larry Pitts, said the prestigious university is forced to compare itself with private schools to remain competitive.
He said the regents often approve higher fees in exception to the public-school-only policy. They did so in November, when they raised fees for 44 graduate programs, 24 of which were higher than the average price of programs at public universities.
The regents then asked Pitts to present a new policy, which they’ll consider this month.
“Students benefit more than anyone from a world-class program,” he said, adding that some schoolshave partial loan-forgiveness programs for graduates who go into public service. Political science student Adam Fowler of the UCLA Graduate Students, said UC is a public school and should not have to compete with private programs.
“Public schools are supposed to offer individuals who may not be able to afford a private school an opportunity,” he said. But the regents will “burden professional students with unfair debt loads” if they approve the new policy.
The regents will meet from March 23 to 25 at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus.
E-mail Nanette Asimov at firstname.lastname@example.org.