The University of California system regents voted Wednesday to freeze tuition and student fees as long as a tax measure on the November ballot passes.
Otherwise, all bets are off for how to make up a massive funding deficit.
The decision, however, was not made lightly. Regents’ opinions varied, students protested the potential consequences while wearing zombie costumes and Gov. Jerry Brown even stopped by the San Francisco meeting to urge support of his tax measure.
Brown’s Proposition 30 would increase sales and income taxes on wealthy Californians. If the measure passes, the UC system would receive $250 million in funding plus $125.4 million to reimburse students for a portion of their fall tuition. If the measure fails, however, drastic action would need to be taken to make up a $375 million shortfall.
“If it doesn’t pass, we’ll face difficult decisions,” UC President Mark Yudof said. “We’ll have to essentially balance the budget overnight.”
Though a tuition hike was not approved Wednesday, one potential stopgap solution could be a midyear tuition increase of 20.3 percent for all undergraduates — in-state students would pay $14,670 per year instead of $12,192. And regardless of whether the tax measure passes, as many as 57 professional programs will face price increases.
Some regents wanted to avoid tuition increases altogether, while others were not so optimistic.
“If November comes and the tax fails, what are we going to do?” Regent Leslie Tang Schilling said. “We won’t have a plan in place that will have some magic ability to create revenue without raising fees.
“I urge us to consider in a resolution that if Prop. 30 fails, we will increase fees automatically by 20 percent, otherwise I think we’re just fooling ourselves.”
UC Berkeley student Devonte Jackson said the proposed increase, which would add $2,400 to basic tuition, would be too costly for him and his family.
“I hit my limit on financial aid and had to take out a loan for $5,200 to cover my cost of living,” he said. “That’s a lot for my family to handle.”
Jackson was one of dozens of students who spoke out against any tuition hikes — a 6 percent tuition increase each year for the next four years also is being considered — while urging support of Prop. 30.
Before the vote, students interrupted the meeting with chants. That followed a zombie dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to symbolize students who are “dying” under the weight of college debt.
The dance interrupted the meeting for more than 30 minutes. The UC police force was called in to remove the unlawful assembly, and students left five minutes before being arrested.
The regents said that in September, they will further discuss options to bridge the budget gap.
UC regents this week were not the only board to consider increases in tuition tied to Prop. 30’s passage. On Tuesday, the board of trustees for the California State University system heard a plan to increase tuition for its 23 campuses by 9 percent.