UC Regents Delay Vote on Nonresident Tuition Increase

Image of UC President Napolitano taken from Board of Regents March 14 livestream.

The University of California (UC) Board of Regents voted on March 14 to table the vote for a nonresident tuition raise until their May meeting, following strong opposition from the UC Student Association (UCSA) and several regents.

While the motion did not specify a date to revisit the proposal, Regent Chair George Kieffer said that tabling the bill will give the board and student advocates time to lobby the legislature for more funds in the state budget.

The UC Office of the President (UCOP) proposed the tuition raise, which would increase the UC Nonresident Supplemental Tuition (NRST) by 2.6 percent ($762), bringing it up to $29,754 for the 2019-20 academic year. The NRST is a mandatory additional fee nonresident students have to pay along with the $12,570 for UC tuition.

The Board of Regents originally anticipated $28.9 million in revenue from the tuition hike, which would have been used to fund systemwide programs and services, including additional faculty and TAs at UC San Diego. The nonresident increase was strongly supported by UC President Janet Napolitano, who argued that without the increase, there would be a $30 million hole in the UC budget.

Napolitano further stated that nonresident students could look to other alternatives for financial assistance, and that in the past, the UC system has seen no decline in applications from out-of-state or international students, despite tuition increases.

Regent Chair Kieffer also supported the proposal. “Our obligation…is the education of our California students,” he said. ”Our job is not to educate the rest of the world.”

Other regents were hesitant to support the bill, citing concerns that the UC education would become increasingly inaccessible to students without affluent backgrounds.

“I don’t think we want to end up at the point where we only have wealthy international students,” Regent Lark Park said to heavy applause at the Regents’ March 13 meeting. “I don’t think that reflects who we are as a public university.”

Last March, the UC regents voted to increase nonresident tuition by nearly one thousand dollars. Similarly, the UC Regents delayed a vote on both in-state and nonresident tuition increases last January before eventually voting to raise nonresident tuition in May.

Students in attendance voiced their disapproval of the proposed tuition hike during Regents meetings on both March 13 and 14. When the Finance and Capital Strategies committee voted to advance the tuition raise to the full board, members of the public sitting in the audience chanted “shame.”

During discussion on Wednesday, UCSA Government Relations Vice Chair Varsha Sarveshwar highlighted some of the ways the UC system fails to serve its nonresident student community.

“We know that nonresident tuition subsidizes classrooms, services, and institutional aid for in state students even as those very students don’t benefit from that institutional aid,” Sarveshwar said. “We know that nonresident students bring diversity: diversity of identity and diversity of perspective to our campuses and our classrooms.”

On Thursday, Student Regent Devon Graves and Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle both spoke in opposition to the tuition raise, noting that nonresident students face basic needs insecurities similar to resident students. Graves also pointed out the additional costs faced by out-of-state students, including visa and legal fees.

“Nonresident students are frequent users of food and housing insecurity services,” Weddle said. “If the university truly values the talent and diversity of all of our students, we cannot continue to place the burden of the budget on nonresident students.”

UCSA President Caroline Siegel-Singh shared these concerns at the March 14 meeting. In her statement, Siegel-Singh touched on undocumented students not covered by AB 540, a law that allows undocumented students to qualify as residents only if they meet specific guidelines.

“We are troubled greatly by the fact that this specific student population is being scapegoated as taking seats away from eligible Californians…we’re using a population, which includes many undocumented students, to supplement where state funding has fallen short,” Siegel-Singh said.

Along with Siegel-Singh, UCSA International Student Affairs Officer Ashraf Beshay hopes the meetings’ outcome will unite nonresident and resident students in future conversations about tuition raises.

“This is the start of a positive relationship for nonresident and residents to see each other as a like rather than a different,” said Beshay. “We are pursuing an upward mobility that empowers ourselves and with that we can reach a brighter future for everyone.”

The March 13 and March 14 Board of Regents meetings’ livestreams can be found here.

Ethan Edward Coston is an Assistant News Editor of The Triton. News Editor Ella Chen, Editor-in-Chief Mo Al Elew, and Managing Editor Isabelle Yan contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.