During today’s meeting, the Board of Regents of the University of California will most likely be voting to effectively increase tuition by approximately 2.5 percent for the upcoming academic year. An increase like this can produce multifaceted impacts for all of our students, especially in terms of increasing the food and housing insecurity, which is already prevalent for many, particularly for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Although the University of California is charged with being a world class university that provides quality, affordable, and accessible education for California, these principles are being contested by many of its university’s leaders. This story has become too common, but, like always, students will continue to advocate on behalf of all.
From its inception, the University of California has been responsible for providing education to the people of California at no cost, according to the California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960. However, following the enactment of Proposition 13 in 1978, support for higher education from the state electorate began to decline. The bill reduced the amount of state revenue that could be invested from property tax into higher education. Before its enactment, approximately 3.76 percent of the state’s revenue had been allocated for California’s public education system, but a decade after 1978, the state’s investment in education had fallen to 3.17 percent. In effect, Proposition 13 created tax loopholes by capping the property tax of industrial properties, businesses, and corporations to 1 percent of its assessed value.
This is still affecting California today; the California’s Legislative Analysis Office reports that in 2008, while state spending in higher education has gradually declined, state spending on prisons have increased. Simultaneously, the price of attending the University of California has also increased from $0 to $150 in 1970, and from $7,434 in 2005 to $14,460. In 2017, students must pay on average $34,200.
Recently during the Winter of 2014, the Regents of the University of California were set to vote on a new long-term stability plan as proposed by University of California President, Janet Napolitano. This would have effectively increased tuition by 5 percent annually for five years, meaning that by 2015, there would have been a total increase of $612 in its first year. Students began to mobilize at every level — via their own campuses, their own communities, and the University of California at large — by rallying, hosting sit-ins, lobbying their local and state legislators, among others. It was the power of student advocacy that was instrumental in postponing a tuition increase for two years.
This tuition freeze has now thawed and the Regents of the University of California will be revisiting proposed tuition increases at their monthly meeting between January 25 and January 26. Although students from across the University of California gathered to fight against a potential tuition hike as early as in November, students from across the system had been explicitly barred from the process. Instead, they were threatened with arrest. No inclusion, no transparency, and no communication. How are the Regents prioritizing the student voice and student input?
Today, we must all continue to work to improve the state of education in California. We must all continue to work to reform Proposition 13 and reshift our funding priorities to higher education, at every tier, including the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges. We must all continue to work to divest from prisons and invest in higher education. We must all continue to work so that the Regents are accountable and attentive to our students.
Now more than ever, we call on our students, our campus, and our state leaders to reject the proposed tuition increase so that an education at the University of California is a reality for all. It is our duty, it is our right, #FundTheUC and #FundOurFuture.
This article was written by the ASUCSD Office of External Affairs with contributions from First Year Fellow Caroline Siegel Singh, Campus Organizing Director Nicolas Monteiro, and Interim Vice President of External Affairs Adán Chávez.
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