If you are going to inflict pain on students, the least you can do is feel their pain. The second thing you can do is broadcast their pain to the Governor and the legislature that caused it. Maybe then they’d think twice about forcing more fee hikes with more cuts. Maybe even the fanatical governor would think twice, since he is promising still deeper cuts, and to go after “the high-hanging fruits.”
The Regents are expected to increase undergrad resident “Ed Fees” 32% over the next 18 months. They are also set to explode professional school fees beyond limits set by their own rules – from zero to $6000 for Environmental Design at Berkeley, zero to $6000 for Information Management, zero to $4000 for Social Welfare, zero to $11,000 for Physical Therapy at UCSF – a 2/3rd increase for Public Health at Berkeley, and 40% increases in Nursing at 4 campuses scheduled for 2010-2012. In responses, UC leaders are saying that 32% fee increases won’t affect students that much at all. The Blue and Gold Plan press release says that over half of UC undergrads get grants averaging $10,300 per year - which would suggest to normal readers that half of undergrads will continue to pay no tuition.
In the same vein, the Regents' documents state that "financial aid program enhancements . . meant that undergraduate students with family incomes below $180,000 experienced, on average, an increase of $1,200 - $1,500 in resources for education expenses” (Regents Nov F1 p 12). Or a page later, “UC projects that, on average, students with incomes below $180,000 will experience financial resource increases, either through gift aid or expanded tax credits, to cover the full amount of fee increases already approved and now proposed for 2009-10.” This sounds a lot like UCOP is saying, the more fees go up, the better off all (but the richest) students are.
This is a script from a model sometimes called "high-tuition / high-fees," and at other times called "privatization." It is not a script based on student reality. Even UCOP’s rosy scenario leaves an average $11,000 gap in the cost of attendance, which is three times what "middle-income" familes ($50,000-$100,000) are able to pay for college and nearly five times the average outlays of lower-income families (Sallie Mae Figure 6). These gaps are filled with increasing student debt, and increasing student work while in college. Private student debt tripled in the last downturn, debt overall continues to grow, 75% of the public college students who borrow have more than $10,000 in debt, with a median of $17,700.
Stats can be strung out for a while but let's cut to the chase. Debt reduces incentive to continue and reduces freedom of career choice and economic contribution. Excessive work lowers attainment for students who do attend. Today I spent an hour with a first-generation student who pays for fees and rent at UCLA by working 38 hours a week as a shift supervisor at Starbucks. How much more exactly is UC going to ask her to do?
This gets us back to strategy. The Ed Fee hike will net $330.0 million for UC (Display 3), which, as a percentage of 2 years of UC's "core budget" (p 3) comes to 2%. Is 2% really worth all this student grief?
Secondly, when the Governor and the legislature read that UC covers its fee hikes with financial aid, what reason do they have to rebuild public funds? The logical effect is the opposite - to think UC can save itself with higher fees, and help low-income students with better aid. UCOP has been sending a mixed message for years - we need more public money, but we can always raise private money through tuition increases. The effect has been a disaster for public funding - not the one cause of the disaster, but a major one. In the ten years that have seen fees double, public funding is now back exactly where it was (Display 4) - well below, actually, corrected for enrollment growth and inflation. And with its soothing talk of managed fee hikes, UCOP is giving Sacramento no reason to change.
Here's what the Regents should do instead:
1.Recenter UC’s message on the reality that massive fee hikes are very bad. They are just plain bad - bad for students, nearly useless for restoring operating funds.
2.Hold state leaders responsible for the cuts that forced the hikes. The Regents should say this: We had a Higher Education Compact with the Governor. It held us to 3% annual increases, and then, when things got tough, the governor reneged on the deal. The same happened with the legislature: we got the bipartisan shaft. We are going to explain to every student and every parent just what you all have done to their university. We will ask them to ask you to explain how you will fix it. If you can’t or won’t fix it, we will ask them to vote you out of office – as enemies of students, of public higher education, and of the future of the state.
3. We have a new "Compact." It is not with Sacramento this time. It is a “Compact with UC Students.” Our Compact with them is this: we will not charge them more for less. We will set a minumum investment per undergraduate student that maintains UC quality (as the Academic Senate recommended in 2008). We will establish a multi-year strategy for sustaining this investment, with clear revenue goals.These will center on repeated increases in state funding requests. Any fee hikes will be strictly limited, devoted to enhancing educational quality, and their uses will be clearly defined. If we cannot do this with the current scale of enrollments, we will shrink enrollments. And we as UC leaders will join with students, staff, and faculty in tracing the problem to Sacramento, starting with Governor Schwarzenegger, because it is a problem no remotely affordable fee hikes can fix.
There are risks in this kind of strategy. But a loss of 40% of of enrollment-corrected state funding from 1990 to 2005, and another 25% in the past 2, says that the conflicted high-fee public model has failed - and has failed faster the faster that fees rise. UC's truly amazing students deserve much better than this, and the Regents need to do something besides pass the hikes.
2 hours ago