University of California Considers Hiking Tuition by 5 Percent

Tuition at the University of California's 10 campuses would rise by as much as 5 percent in each of the next five years under a plan UC President Janet Napolitano is expected to present to the system's governing board Thursday.

The proposal follows three years in which tuition rates have remained frozen. It would increase the average annual cost of a UC education for California residents pursuing undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees in academic as opposed to professional disciplines from $12,192 to up to $12,804 next fall and $15,564 in fall 2019, according to a copy of the plan provided in advance to The Associated Press.

"They’re going to be stealing money from broke college students," said Cal freshman Shayun Pedran told NBC Bay Area on Thursday." And most of us are taking out loans. So it’s pretty awful if they raise it any more, in my opinion.”

“For them to raise the tuition every year so much for the students, especially the ones who are struggling," Gabrielle Oh, a Cal junior said, "I think that’s cruel.”

Napolitano said the five-year framework fulfills a goal she set when she assumed the president's office last year of making "modest'' tuition hikes a predictable part of the university's budget so both families and campuses can know what to expect and plan accordingly.

"We are being honest, being honest with Californians in terms of cost and also ensuring that we are continuing to maintain the University of California in terms of academic excellence, in terms of its moment, in terms of being really an engine of mobility,'' she said in an interview.

UC’s Chief Financial Officer, Nathan Brostrom, said the new plan will bring stabilization to the system’s budget and families can plan.

“We have a significant amount of mandatory costs," he said. "We have retirement contributions to our pension system, retiree health. Our health benefits. One of the areas the state could help us with is in retirement.”

The 5 percent figure assumes state funding for the university will go up by about $120 million, or 4 percent each year, which Napolitano said is inadequate given ongoing cost increases, the pressure campuses are feeling to enroll more students and funding cuts made during the recession that have left taxpayer-support for the part of the budget that goes for educating students $460 million below what it was six years ago.

A bigger boost in state funding would reduce or eliminate the need for the proposed tuition hikes, she said. For every additional $20 million, the planned tuition increase could be reduced by 1 percent, UC spokesman Steve Montiel said.

"What we want to be is very upfront with the governor and the Legislature. We know the assumptions we have been asked to work with,'' Napolitano said. "`But we will have for them a 'what that then means for tuition,' and therefore they will be able to ascertain. And people who don't want a tuition increase, this is where the fight is.''

A series of increases that have nearly doubled UC tuition during the last eight years sparked protests at many campuses and drew complaints that California was abandoning its commitment to a new generation of college students. But Napolitano said that because nearly 55 percent of UC undergraduates receive income-based financial aid that fully covers their tuition, the impact of the increase she is proposing would mostly affect students who can afford to pay it.

She said that in developing the plan, which also calls for increases of up to 5 percent in nonresident tuition and new ``supplemental tuition'' charges for five professional degree programs, she spoke with students, members of the UC Board of Regents and faculty members and considered several options besides across-the-board annual increases.

One idea that was explored and eventually abandoned would have charged students on a sliding scale based on their majors. Another would have not required students to pay tuition until after they had finished their studies and found jobs.

The Board of Regents is scheduled to consider the plan at its Nov. 19 meeting.

The 23-campus California State University system, which like UC and the state's community colleges has not increased tuition during the last three years, may consider raising tuition prices as part of developing its budget for the next academic year, but it is not yet considering a specific proposal, spokesman Mike Uhlencamp said.

NBC Bay Area's Nanette Miranda contributed to this report.

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