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UC Regents committee approves fee increase

November 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A University of California Board of Regents committee approved a 32-percent student fee increase Wednesday, despite rowdy student protests that disrupted the panel's meeting at UCLA and resulted in 14 arrests.Right now undergraduate students pay about $7,800 a year to attend one of the 10 UC campuses. With the fee increase, students will now have to pay more than $10,000, which many say they can't afford.

"My sister's starting college next year, we can't afford it," said UCLA student Karissa Cognata. "I have to take out a huge loan and be paying it off for the rest of my life."

"If it goes up 32 percent I'm not going to be able to go to school next year," said UCLA student D'jon Carter.

The full Board of Regents will consider the proposed tuition increase Thursday.

Under the proposed fee increases approved by the regents' Finance Committee, tuition at UC campuses would increase by $585 in the spring, then another $1,344 next fall.

Along with a $900 registration fee, the hikes would bring annual in-state UC tuition to $10,302, not including campus fees, housing and books. It would mark the first time tuition topped $10,000. UC officials said the university is facing a $535 million budget deficit, and the increases are necessary to close the gap.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside UCLA's Covel Commons, where the committee was meeting, chanting and waving signs. Many demonstrators rushed the doors of the meeting room and disrupted the session at least twice. As officers approached them, the protesters locked arms and sang the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."

Inside the meeting, protesters made it clear that they are angry over the proposed increase. It got so unruly inside that the regents left the room and the meeting area was cleared by police.

There are reports of protesters throwing water bottles, rocks, sticks and vinegar-soaked rags at university police.

Fourteen people, including 12 students, were arrested, cited for unlawful assembly or disturbing the peace and released, according to UCLA.

Members of the Finance Committee said they reluctantly supported the fee increases, insisting they had little choice thanks to steep cuts in state funding.

"Maybe we can be more efficient in delivering our education services," said Mark Yudof, president of the UC Board of Regents. "Maybe we could deliver more courses by Internet; maybe we could have more three-year degrees; maybe we could find other budget cuts that we haven't found. Could be that there would be substantial additional layoffs, which would be very unfortunate. We face a lot of hard choices."

Yudof says the regents will first cut faculty, staff, salaries and other services before having to ask students to pay more.

"I feel their angst and their insecurities. It's a terrible time. I mean, there are foreclosures and maybe one of their parents has lost a job and they're not quite sure how the financial aid will work. So I feel all that," Yudof added.

The UC regents also plan to ask for an addition $913 million in state funding for the next fiscal year. They also plan to cut freshman enrollment if the funding is not approved.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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