UC System's Education Woes

You cannot put a price tag on your education.  You can however take out massive loans, bury yourself in debt and realize that you cannot afford to go to school because someone put a pretty expensive price tag on your education.

Last Tuesday, the University of California Regents approved a 32 percent increase in student fees.  The increase of $2500 rounds out the UC education fees to about $10,300.  This price does not include the approximate $16,000 students spend on room, board and books.

Protest throughout the UCs ten campuses reflected the anger and outrage students felt when they heard the news.

The increase not only affects students currently at a UC but also hurts transfer students who plan to attend school in the fall.  Community college is a common place that students go to save money and the fee increase might make some students reconsider their option of a UC in favor of a Cal State.

"I've always wanted to go UCLA and I am not looking forward to having a very likely fee increase again when I finally transfer," SMC student Diana Elihu, 17 said.

The fee increase was unavoidable considering the $535 million debt that the UC system is currently suffering.  However, the UC system is holding the students responsible to fill the void the government should be supplementing.

The root of the problem, if one were trying to pin point it, is largely due to the California's economic woes.  According to the 2008-2009 California budget, the state spent only $1.7 million more on higher education than on corrections and rehabilitation. The state budget has cut some of its prison spending for the 2009-2010 year but the mistakes of the past should not be dismissed.

"We are quick to abolish education funding, which in the long run is going to hurt our state," UC Santa Cruz student junior, Samer Hosn, said. "We live in a state where we spend tons of money on our prized prisons, and yet our successful universities are always in limbo."

According to the University of California 2009-2010 Financial Report, state funding appropriates about $2.4 billion of the UC system while student tuition funds just under $2.1 billion.  State funding just barley trumps the funding received by students. The thought is quite frightening.

Parents spend years saving money just to meet the bare essentials of funding their child's education. College is expensive regardless of government aid assisting some students. While the UC regents shouldn't have raised tuition, there is very little they can do to their own budget to fill the $535 million deficit.

The University has implemented a furlough/salary reduction plan saving $184 million, campus and system wide layoffs and programmatic reductions saving $343 million, and other system wide savings, including debt restructuring, intended to save another $75 million.

It is tragic that programs must be cut and layoffs must occur for the UC system to attempt and fix their problem.  The government should take responsibility for all of this by increasing state property taxes, corporate taxes, liquor and tobacco taxes just a fraction of a percent.  They should start cutting from prison spending and implement a better system to keep inmates facilitated while saving money for education.

An argument heard by many is that the price of a UC is far more reasonable than that of a private institution or even a public school in another state.  This argument does not stand since students who decide on a UC probably chose their school for that reason.  It is more affordable than other schools and a fee increase does not assist students who are hardly making the payments for tuition.

There is a discrepancy among the previous tuition at a UC, the new tuition at a UC and the tuition at a private institution. The fees are costly regardless of the type of school but students are told that they need education, so they take on the loans. Allowing any type of loan to a student traps them into a life filled with payments. UC regents are continuously being blamed for the increase but there is very little one can do to avoid raising the tuition at all.

It was wrong for them to hike the fee by 32 percent but a fee increase was necessary. At the very least gradual fee increases could have prepared students for the jump from $7,788 to $10,302.

"There was no warning for the students," Hosn said. "The regents should have done everything in their power to stop or slow the increase, rather than just pass the blame on the economy."

The future of the UC system is quite questionable.  Education can never truly be the free, tangible good that so many want it to be. To further the state of current fiscal situations, students must grab the attention of the government and remind them that soon they will need to fill their shoes; they can't accomplish this without a proper, inexpensive forum to learn.