University of California system officials say they are facing a $1-billion shortfall due to continued cuts to education. And to help plug the red ink they're considering hiking student tuition by 8 percent and reducing pension benefits for future employees.
"I mean we don't have money as it is. And now they are trying to take more money from us. I mean what are we going to do?" said student Shant Siayhin.
The University of California Board of Regents is expected to vote on the controversial proposals next week. Last year the board voted to hike fees more than 30 percent throughout the UC system.
"Doing it again will just be ridiculous," said student Angela Aschian. "Stop poking on our education. It's critical for us to get an education, for the future of this state, this country."
If the student fee hike is approved, annual tuition for California residents will climb by $822 to $11,124. The increase doesn't include individual campus fees or room and board. The hike would go into effect in fall 2011, raising an estimated $180 million in annual revenue. One-third of that money would be set aside for student aid. Officials want to expand UC's financial aid program so that students from families earning less than $80,000 would not have to pay any tuition.
"It's not fair, especially to the middle class, who keeps getting pushed out," said Bianco Pinebo. "I know my family, we don't fall into that category of getting enough financial aid so everything has to come out of our pockets. So it's just not fair."
UC officials say without fee hikes the university would likely have to lay off more staff, eliminate academic programs and turn away more qualified students.
"Anytime I guess fees are increased, you know students who are in universities are going to be upset. I'm one of those students," said student Omar Ramirez.
UC officials are also looking to make changes to employee retirement benefits.
California State University officials are considering a 5-percent tuition hike. They could vote on that proposed hike as soon as the next couple days.