California Governor Gavin Newsom rejected a proposed tuition increase for University of California (UC) students on January 8. Newsom instead increased state funding for UC campuses by 3% in the 2021–2022 proposed budget. Despite this increase, “the Governor’s decision leaves UC San Diego with a $20 million funding gap,” according to Associate Communications Director, Leslie Sepuka.
Prior to Newsom’s rejection of the proposed tuition increase, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, as well as various other UC officials, called for an increase to student tuition. This proposed tuition increase is the latest installment in a series of gradual tuition increases since 1970, when the UC first moved away from free tuition.
Although some campus leaders across the UC system supported tuition increases, according to Mikhail Zinshteyn, a reporter for CalMatters, the UC Regents never made plans to increase tuition.
Although the University of California Board of Regents is in charge of decisions regarding tuition, according to Sepuka, Governor Newsom is “an important consideration in that process, both because [he] is an ex officio Regent and the state budget allocation to the university is part of the Governor’s proposed budget.”
According to Sepuka, an increase in tuition is necessary to accommodate for the $40 million budget increases made every year by UCSD to cover increased salaries and benefits for staff and academic employees. But the COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced UCSD’s budget and thus increased the need for the increase in tuition, most notably due to a reduction in state funding implemented by Newsom in May of 2020.
“Even with the partial restoration [in state funding] just announced, the net impact is a revenue loss of $20 million for the campus at a time when the enrollment of students from California increased by 1,000,” Sepuka told The Triton.
Auxiliary units, such as housing, parking, the Bookstore, and the Extension school, do not receive funding from the state or from student tuition and fees, and are expected to generate their own revenue. Due to decline in revenues perpetuated by COVID 19, Sepuka states that these units have had to borrow $200 million from the University of California, in the form of a line of credit, to make up the costs. According to Sepuka the Auxiliary units will pay back this loan using revenue generated from sales and services.
“Freezing tuition automatically creates a shortfall of $10 million annually, forcing UC San Diego to cut costs every year and preventing the campus from sufficiently investing in education and student services,” stated Sepuka in her statement to The Triton.
Sepuka also noted that one-third of the revenue generated from new undergraduate tuition and the Student Services Fee has historically been set aside for financial aid. The failure to increase tuition has resulted in no increase in the amount of money set aside for financial aid.
Though the UCSD administration insists tuition increases are necessary, student leaders throughout the UC system, including UC Student Association (UCSA) President Aidan Arasasingham, strongly oppose such increases.
“I empathize with the challenges campus leaders face in closing budget deficits. UC Chancellors made the right choices in guaranteeing COVID-19 testing, keeping dorms open for vulnerable students, and expanding access to online learning — all while facing state budget cuts and limited federal aid. However, students and families struggling under pandemic and income loss cannot foot these bills. This is the worst moment to consider a tuition increase,” said Arasasingham.
Sixth College Senator Zaccary Bradt also strongly opposes the possibility of a tuition increase and expects that many of his colleagues within Associated Students (AS) would agree.
“I would suspect…AS would have been vigorously opposed to it, lobbying against any tuition increase, much like we attempted last year when the UC also proposed tuition increases,” Bradt told The Triton regarding the possible increase in tuition, had it not been rejected by Governor Newsom.
Bradt also noted that preliminary plans were made between the members of AS and Arasasingham in December 2020 when this potential increase in tuition was first introduced. Bradt hopes that moving forward, the university will look for solutions to funding-related issues and work to reduce the overall cost of public education.
“UCSA has historically opposed tuition increases, and we have a strong record of blocking them. We are optimistic that university leaders will pursue other options, but remain firm in our opposition to tuition increases,” said Arasasingham.
Sarah Naughten is a staff writer for The Triton.