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UC Regents Delay Tuition Hike

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UCLA students protest as UC regents vote on a tuition increase in 2009.  (David McNew/Getty Images)

After hearing from students and legislators, University of California Regents delayed a vote to increase tuition on Wednesday at a meeting in San Francisco.

In a letter, Gov. Jerry Brown encouraged regents to reject the proposed hike, writing, "This tuition increase is premature."

He concluded, "I urge you to focus on reducing the system's cost structures rather than increasing the financial burden on students."

Students had been advocating against the increase. They collected some 2,000 testimonials about the personal impacts of a tuition bump, and presented them to regents and to legislators in Sacramento.

Students also showed up in person at Wednesday's meeting to speak directly to the regents.

UC Santa Cruz student Ayo Banjo drove in the night before Wednesday's meeting so he could tell UC Regents what the tuition increase would mean for him.
UC Santa Cruz student Ayo Banjo drove in the night before Wednesday's meeting so he could tell UC regents what the tuition increase would mean for him. (Vanessa Rancano/KQED)

UC Berkeley junior Gloria Nuñez was there. She grew up in the Central Valley farm town of Delano, where she said few of her peers considered college a possibility, in part because of the cost. She worries that rising tuition will make a UC education seem totally out of reach.

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Nuñez said that although the proposed increase might not have sounded like much -- it would have cost in-state students an additional $342 next school year -- for her family it is.

"My mom works in the fields," she said. "That's my mom's paycheck."

UC officials said financial aid would have covered the increased cost for more than half of in-state undergrads, but advocates argued that students can easily fall through the cracks in the financial aid system.

Others voiced concerns about students who might not be eligible for aid.

"We also have to keep in mind there are middle-class families who are affected by this tuition increase," said UC Student Association President Judith Gutierrez, who also attended the meeting to voice her opposition to the hike.

"Maybe they don't have just one student in college. That really becomes an issue in terms of affordability."

UC officials had said they needed additional funding after getting less than expected in Gov. Brown's proposed budget. But after hearing from students and legislators, UC President Janet Napolitano recommended they put off the vote until spring to give UC time to make a better case to legislators. She said they needed to show they'd done all they could to cut costs and find other sources of funding.

"I think we need to demonstrate that we have done everything we can to increase the amount of state funding," she said. "We should accept the invitation of the students who were with us this morning to fight together for funding for the University of California."

UC Student Association President Judith Gutierrez (R) with UC Berkeley student Max Lubin, who heads up the free tuition advocacy group RISE. The two organizations worked together to advocate against the tuition increase.
UC Student Association President Judith Gutierrez (R) with UC Berkeley student Max Lubin, who heads up the free tuition advocacy group RISE. The two organizations worked together to advocate against the tuition increase. (Vanessa Rancano/KQED)

That was welcome news for UC Berkeley student Max Lubin, who runs the free college tuition advocacy group RISE.

"I can’t think of another time when students and California’s leadership stood in unison to oppose a tuition hike," Lubin said. "We’ve had conversations in Sacramento about folks wanting to find a solution that doesn’t involve taxing students more."

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