Round One goes to the University of California in the political battle over how much money students – and taxpayers – should pay for a college education.
The UC Board of Regents took the first step Wednesday towards five consecutive years of tuition increases.
Hundreds of University of California students chanted angrily outside of the Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco. After trying to block regents from entering the building Wednesday morning, they stood out in the rain for hours.
UC Santa Cruz Freshman Jocelyn Delgado was among them.
“My sign says, why is your salary more important than our education?” Delgado said. “I’m referring to the chancellors that are getting all these raises – instead all our tuition money and the money we’re paying for is going to those raises instead of our education.”
Inside the building on the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus, the Regents meeting room was packed – with all eyes on UC President Janet Napolitano and Governor Jerry Brown.
The governor announced he would oppose Napolitano’s proposal, which would raise tuition by five percent each of the next five school years unless the state gives the UC an additional $100 million in each of the next five budgets.
He countered with his own proposal.
“I call it, for the creation of a select committee to develop proposals to reduce the university’s cost structure while increasing access and quality," he said.
Brown said he wanted the committee to study initiatives such as three-year degrees, a broad range of online courses, and credits for students with applicable work experience or military training.
And, he said, the state has already set aside more than $100 million a year of extra money for the UC on the specific condition that tuition is frozen – so no, he doesn’t support giving the university anything more.
“It’s so hard to work change in complex institutions, that often time the pressure of not having enough money can force creativity that otherwise can’t even be considered," said Brown.
But Napolitano refused to table the tuition vote despite the governor’s committee proposal.
“We don’t have time to wait for another commission," Napolitano said. "We can have it. And we can make sure we get some – maybe we’ll actually get some really nifty ideas out of it. That’s always possible. But the budget process moves along.”
Regent Norman Pattiz, whom Brown had reappointed earlier this year, was one of many who criticized the governor for – in their minds – short-changing the university, after voters approved sales and income tax increases two years ago. Nobody, he said, wants to raise tuition.
“We don’t have to – if we can get our Legislature and elected officials to do what ought to be done, which is to give us the money we thought we were getting in Prop 30," said Pattiz.
Meanwhile, students said they're unsympathetic with both sides of the issue.
Delgado said she's furious with the university leadership. She said she feels blindsided by the UC’s proposal.
But Delgado’s fellow Santa Cruz freshman, Stacy Vargas, said the governor and Legislature should put more money into the UC system.
“Everyone’s in charge of paying taxes," said Vargas. "And we question where do those taxes go in the first place? If it’s not for the better of the future of the students, then what are you doing with the money?”
The board committee passed the tuition proposal 7-to-2 – with Brown and the student regent voting no. The full board is expected to approve the plan Thursday.