The current recession that the United States finds itself mired in is like the gift that keeps on giving.
As if unemployment and the state’s ever increasing deficit weren’t enough to deal with, college students in California must now deal with an increase in fees at University of California campuses.
On Nov. 19, UC regents voted to increase fees by 32 percent. Not 5 or 10 percent, but, 32 percent.
That’s a truly ridiculous amount of money to ask of college students, many of whom are already struggling.
For California residents, the increase will begin in January 2010 with a mid-year fee hike of $585 for undergrads and graduate professional degree students and $111 for graduate academic degree students.
Then, beginning in summer 2010, for the 2010-2011 academic year, fees will go up another $1,334.
During a finance committee hearing, UC President Mark Yudof said, “We’re being forced to impose a user tax on our students and their families.”
He added, “This is a tax necessary because our political leaders have failed to adequately fund public higher education.”
Really, a tax on education.
We just assumed the tuition was the tax everyone paid to have a higher education.
The regents have said that financial aid opportunities will be expanded to cover the new fees; however, many aid programs are already stretched to the max and can’t accommodate all the new applicants they will now receive.
What this fee hike does is price many students out of a college education.
In response to the news, students began protesting at many UC campuses. At UCLA where the regents were meeting, students rallied outside the meeting and a group of students locked themselves inside one building to make their point.
The only vote against the increase was that of student regent Jesse Bernal who felt that the burden of the budget crisis should not be carried exclusively by students, but spread evenly among fee increases, staff furloughs and cutbacks.
The effect of this decision on Riverside City College students will most likely be felt in the spring semester when students who can no longer afford to go to UC colleges return to RCC to continue their educations.
Unfortunately, RCC is in the midst of its own budget crisis and cannot realistically support the influx of new students.
“One of my greatest concerns is how a restriction of attendance at UC and CSU impacts RCC, by students who would have gone to UC or CSU now choosing RCC and that displacing students for whom RCC is their first choice,” RCC President Jan Muto said.
A fee increase also will impede anyone trying to transfer from RCC to a UC.
If a student’s whole college plan was centered around transferring to a UC and that option was taken away, what could they do?
Many UC institutions are renowned for their research opportunities and accomplished arts programs. For students in these disciplines, giving up is not an option.
University administrators seem completely oblivious to the ramifications of their decision, suggesting that students turn to their parents, financial aid or part-time jobs.
The reality of the situation is that most students are already working full-time and cannot depend on help from parents who are struggling to get by.
Perhaps the most heinous part of this decision is that administrators have raised fees while cutting classes and programs at the same time.
So students are expected to pay more for less.
If you went to the grocery store and they charged you $200 for a $100 worth of food, you would be livid and you sure wouldn’t go back to that store anymore.
Well for students at UC colleges, they don’t have a choice, they either pay or starve. Or in other words, pay or drop out of school and try to find another way to finish their education.
The real damage of this crisis is in the continuing psychological damage that it will do to college students.
As more classes are cut and fees are raised, students will eventually become tired of the constant hurdles they must jump and give up on getting a degree and settle for whatever they feel they can live with.
California cannot afford to deter anymore individuals from getting higher education degrees.
College is supposed to be where young people figure who they’ll become in the future.
Well apparently the students at UCLA, UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley have decided to become students who stand up for themselves and their classmates.
Maybe the UC regents should take note and start displaying a little loyalty to the students who make their colleges such exceptional institutions.