UC students’ future is at stake in tuition vote

Jefferson Kuoch-Seng
Jefferson Kuoch-Seng

On Wednesday, the University of California Board of Regents plans to vote on a proposal that could raise student tuition by up to 5 percent annually over the next five years, contingent on future state investment. The people of California, our elected officials, and most importantly, California’s students have publicly voiced their opposition.

As debate continues around who is responsible for the financial stability critical to maintaining the success of the University of California, I want it to be clear that tuition increases are not the answer – leadership is.

The University of California must first uphold its mission of ensuring quality, affordability and accessibility. The latter two tenets are at stake.

Tuition has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, while financial aid is barely keeping up with inflation. While attempts have been made to close the gap, such as the new Middle Class Scholarship, this tuition plan could increase the cost of attendance by nearly 27 percent. Additionally, some students can expect one-time increases of up to 20 percent. While the UC boasts a strong institutional aid package, it is simply not enough for many students, particularly when the costs of housing, food and bare necessities continue to escalate.

The tuition proposal marks a pivotal moment when current students may risk completing their education, and future students may be shut out from ever attending the UC. We call on the regents to recognize that the future of a public university must not come at the cost of its students. Rather, the president and the regents must openly and honestly take bolder steps toward innovative funding solutions and more prudent spending choices.

California’s legislative leaders also must uphold their commitment to the future of the state’s higher education system, economic success and civic well-being. Many elected officials have spoken out against the proposal and are declaring that tuition increases are not the solution to the UC’s financial problems. Gov. Jerry Brown, a UC regent, is not satisfied with the proposal.

The people of California thought they voted for a reinvestment in higher education when they passed the tax increases of Proposition 30 in 2012, and they expected to see greater increases in UC funding. Now is the time to ask where the funds intended for the UC are going, and urge the governor and the Legislature to uphold their end of the bargain.

Californians are looking for bold leadership to tackle these tough problems facing the UC. I urge the regents and Legislature to cooperate and truly commit to investing in the UC, for not just the future of our students, but the future of our state.

Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, a student at UC Merced, is president of the University of California Student Association, which represents more than 240,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students on 11 campuses.