A plan to make students pay more money never goes over well.
But this time students barely had a chance to go over the plan in the first place.
The UC Board of Regents postponed a vote on increasing student tuition Jan. 21, citing student opposition as a reason for the delay. The proposed plan claimed tuition hikes were necessary to create more financial aid options, because of a smaller funding package from the state than the UC expected.
Unsurprisingly, the decision to postpone the vote was met with approval by the UC Student Association, which vehemently opposed the tuition hikes and is continuing to campaign for more funding from the state.
Despite the UC’s claims of being receptive to student concerns, choosing to delay the vote was no commendable feat.
The recent actions taken by the board point to a worrisome precedent in terms of brisk decisions being made while neglecting student opinion. And if attempting to push important votes through in a few short days wasn’t bad enough, the increasing lack of transparency as to what tuition money is being used for is cause for concern. Continuing to disregard the worries of students and community members who are directly affected by such proposals will prove that the UC’s loyalties lie with profit – not the public that supports the University.
In an emailed statement, UC spokesperson Claire Doan said the UC is delaying the vote in order to properly hear out the concerns of students regarding the tuition increase proposal.
“We understand and take seriously the concerns by students who have requested more time to consider the proposed plans and welcome ongoing productive conversations with them,” Doan said.
But students might not have been taken so seriously if it weren’t for a certain California law.
The regents are legally required to notify the public about a proposed increase, provide a justification for a fee increase and give an assessment of its impact on students 10 days prior to voting on it, according to Assembly Bill 970. But according to a recent Los Angeles Times report, the time between the announcement of a potential tuition hike and the day of the scheduled vote was not a satisfactory interval.
Even if legal complications weren’t the deciding factor, it’s still doubtful that the UC is truly willing to hear student input regarding a hasty tuition hike.
Robert Watson, a fourth-year political science student and president of the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council, said he had suspicions about the board systematically delaying the vote.
“I sincerely hope (the postponement) is a genuine move to hear students out and reconsider how much this would impact (them),” Watson said. “It’s really hard to continuously focus on this for months with no guarantee if our efforts will pay off, and (the board) knows that.”
Putting a temporary blockade on the vote won’t make the blow any less painful if it comes to fruition. Currently, the proposal features two different five-year models of tuition increases. While the proposed cohort model would only increase tuition for incoming freshmen and transfer students, the uniform adjustment model would create tuition hikes for existing students.
Both proposed tuition hikes are in multiyear packages, which Watson said could be an attempt to override student opposition for future tuition increases.
“I think they do this as a package because they know that each (tuition increase proposal) individually would also face student opposition, so passing (multiyear tuition increases) altogether prevents students from opposing,” Watson said.
But for current students, a price change that large could make a UC degree financially unattainable – a reality which the UC seems happy to turn a blind eye to.
Zak Fisher, a student at the UCLA School of Law and the president of the UCLA Graduate Students Association, said he didn’t find the official UC statement regarding the postponed vote to be genuine.
“That (statement) is not accurate based on my experience speaking with folks at our school and folks who represent the University Office of the President as well,” Fisher said. “Their actions completely belie the notion that they take student concerns seriously.”
It’s understandable that the UC may have been scrambling for a solution after an unexpected budgeting shortfall by the state legislature. Then again, the board initially failed to even let the proposal be considered by the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee prior to a vote. Rushing through such an impactful proposal with minimal discussion is a blatant display of the board’s disregard for the financial burden it would be ambushing students with.
And the UC doesn’t have a promising track record when it comes to tuition hikes.
The last tuition increase that impacted all students in the UC system was in 2017, when UC Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom claimed the tuition increase would allow for the growth of mental health services and faculty members, among other services.
Yet with students waiting up to five weeks to see a Counseling and Psychological Services counselor at UCLA, UC employees going on strike six times in two years because of job insecurity and a history of financial mismanagement from the UCOP, it’s hard to believe that the increased tuition revenue is being productively spent.
The UC’s primary motivation to postpone the vote, be it student backlash or compliance with California state laws, may never be revealed. But while students are stuck in limbo between now and the impending vote, it’s worth noting that mass amounts of student attention to the tuition hike proposal still brought about a reaction from the board.
Perhaps a continued wave of opposition will bring forth the results that the UCSA and students across the board want to see.
After all, the UC might listen – albeit for the purpose of cultivating another PR dodge in response.