University of California (UC) campuses have faced difficulty in paying for more faculty, course offerings, classrooms and financial aid due to a rapid growth of student enrollment and reduced state support in recent years. On Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2017, the University of California passed a proposal to increase tuition by roughly 2.5 percent after a six-year tuition freeze. In addition to a tuition increase of $282, the Student Services Fee will increase by $54 for a total increase of $336.
The tuition increase proposal came after the number of in-state applicants to all nine undergraduate campuses increased by six percent in 2016, reaching a record-breaking 206,000 applications.
Aragon alumnus and freshman at the University of California Los Angeles Brian Cheong says, “Public schools, especially the UCs, already receive so many applications and are so large, that faculty-to-student ratios are quite large to begin with … a tuition increase guarantees one thing for sure: more students and a larger campus population.”
One-third of the finances raised by the tuition increase will go directly to student awards and programs offering financial aid, such as the state-funded Cal Grant and Middle Class Scholarship programs.
UC students who qualify for financial aid will receive an additional $700 in aid, which will then cover the proposed tuition hike for those students.
However, as of Jan. 10, Governor Jerry Brown proposed to phase out the three-year-old Middle Class Scholarship program that currently provides financial aid to 46,000 middle-class students attending California’s public universities. In his proposal, Brown announced that students currently receiving aid from the program will continue to program will continue to benefit through 2020-21, but no new students will be added.
The UC tuition hike coinciding with the phase out of the Middle Class Scholarship may end up putting students in more debt or swaying students away from attending universities.
Although the UC tuition increase is on track to expand campuses and hire more faculty, Cheong says, “[The tuition increase] does not; however, ensure that the money will be used to find quality professors.”
Cheong adds, “The tuition hike would increase faculty and therefore the number of professors available to teach the classes, but that is not a promise that students will be able to get in [to the classes].”
UC Berkeley alumnus and Aragon teacher Cathryn Kliegel says, “The challenge in the topic of a tuition increase comes between having the best faculty and keeping the tuition low for the students.” Kliegel adds, “Unfortunately the state is not able to fund the UC system the way it used to. And so the colleges are having to come up with the more of the funding on their own from donations and tuition.” The state used to fund about 75 percent of the cost of the UCs and now only 25.8 percent of the UC budget is provided by the state.
However, senior Jason Leung does not believe it will sway many away from applying to UCs. He says, “They are already very popular. It’s like people need to go to college and the UCs are already one of the cheaper options so I think there is no where else to go.”
Junior Andrea Ng agrees, saying, “As a California resident, the increased tuition is still cheaper than some [other] universities.”
The hope of the tuition increase is to improve the UC campuses and the education at a relatively small cost to students.