“Hey ho, tuition hikes have got to go!” chanted UC students at the UCSA Students of Color Conference (SOCC), one of the largest annual UC-wide conferences hosted this year at UC Merced. The conference coincided with UC President Janet Napolitano’s announcement about the new UC tuition plan, where tuition will increase by up to 5 percent per year over the span of five years.
This tuition hike has sparked a movement across all 10 UC campuses. SOCC provided a platform for UC students to voice how escalating tuition rates will affect them, in addition to students hosting rallies on various UC campuses to garner the attention of the UC Board of Regents before their vote on Nov. 19.
After three years of tuition freezes, this plan — if it is to be implemented — will increase enrollment and course selections. Be that as it may, students should not be treated as blank checks. Education is a fundamental right for all citizens, regardless of economic status. The proposed tuition policy holds students hostage by giving students an ultimatum: Either take out more loans or give up on the pursuit of education if it’s not in your price range. This “five-year stability plan” will only result in financial ruin and instability for many students.
Tuition hikes such as this one only serve to reiterate the misconception that education is a privilege, all the while using students as political pawns. As the University of California Students Association stated in their call to action: “We are at risk of further eroding two cornerstones of the university: its affordability and accessibility.”
Tuition hikes make it all the more challenging for people of color and dreamers (individuals who meet the requirements for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) to attend university. Considering both of these groups, among others, have historically been disenfranchised, it’s important for the UC Regents to realize lack of diversity on its own is enough of a reason to vote “no” on raising tuition.
Despite state support recovering as of late, this year’s funds still are $460 million less than seven years ago. If the tuition hike goes through, in-state tuition next year will be $12,804, which is $612 more than this year — not to mention that hefty price tag does not include room, board or books. By the fall of 2019, it could rise to $15,564.
In either case, the Regents receive their paychecks, but if this tuition hike goes through, that ultimatum leaves UC students in the lurch with nothing other than financial distress to show for it.
UC students have been utilizing opportunities such as SOCC and rallies on their respective campuses in defiance of the continuous marginalization exercised by UC officials on matters such as tuition where students are time and time again neglected in the decision-making process. If UC officials are not going to make decisions in the students’ best interests, then it’s up to the students to challenge this plan.
Although the tuition hike received support from UC chancellors and faculty leaders, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon contest it. In fact, de Leon referred to UC tuition as “already too expensive” and promised to fight for more state funding. Gov. Jerry Brown made his stance on the tuition hike crystal-clear, reiterating the importance of his previously announced plan that depends on continuing tuition freezes in order to increase state funding by 4 percent for both UCs and CSUs.
UC officials posit this tuition hike is in pursuit of increasing UC enrollment by 5,000, hence their insistence on making this “five-year stability plan” for all 10 UC campuses, but if they cannot support the current number of students through ensuring accessible and affordable education, why bring in more students? The UC, as a public institution, has a responsibility to educate students; however, the entire UC system’s reputation of providing students with quality and affordable education is at stake if this tuition hike passes. For the sake of a better UC and a better California, the Regents must render this tuition hike null and void.