Tuition at the University of California's 10 campuses would increase by as much as 5 percent in each of the next five years under a plan UC President Janet Napolitano unveiled Thursday.
Rates have remained frozen for the past three years.
Under Napolitano's plan, the average annual cost of a UC education for California residents pursuing undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees in academic as opposed to professional disciplines would jump from $12,192 to $12,804 next fall and $15,564 in fall 2019.
Critics said the proposal would not be sustainable for the university system and would be too much of a burden for students.
Napolitano said the five-year framework fulfills a goal she set when she assumed the president's office last year of making “modest” tuition hikes a predictable part of the university's budget so families and campuses can know what to expect and plan accordingly.
“We are being honest, being honest with Californians in terms of cost and also ensuring that we are continuing to maintain the University of California in terms of academic excellence,” she said in an interview.
The 5 percent figure assumes state funding for the university will go up by about $120 million, or 4 percent each year, which Napolitano said is inadequate given ongoing cost increases, the pressure campuses are feeling to enroll more students, and funding cuts made during the recession that have left taxpayer-support for the part of the budget that goes for educating students $460 million below what it was six years ago.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to consider the plan at its Nov. 19 meeting.
“I'm measurably disappointed and I feel like we've learned nothing from the economic crisis that allowed us to begin looking inward to look at reforms to negate stacking up more debt on the backs of students, particularly middle-class students who will bear the brunt of this increase,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the UC Board of Regents.
He added that UC recently approved substantial pay raises for chancellors.
Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, who also sits on the Board of Regents, vowed to vote against it, saying “it is disturbing to see students used as leverage in budget negotiations.”
“While the state's commitment to higher education absolutely needs to be backed up with adequate resources, fee increases are not the solution, and California families have already endured enough of them,” she said.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said he wants to work with Napolitano to find an alternative.
“Tuition costs in the UC system are already too expensive,” he said. “The state should definitely make larger investments but the UC system also has to become more efficient.”
Napolitano said a bigger boost in state funding would reduce or eliminate the need for the proposed tuition hikes. For every additional $20 million, the planned tuition increase could be reduced by 1 percent, UC spokesman Steve Montiel said.
A series of increases that have nearly doubled UC tuition during the past eight years sparked protests at many campuses and drew complaints that California was abandoning its commitment to a new generation of college students.
Napolitano said that financial aid fully covers tuition for nearly 55 percent of UC undergraduates, so the increase would mostly affect students who can afford to pay it.
The plan also calls for increases of up to 5 percent in nonresident tuition and new supplemental tuition charges for five professional degree programs.
Chancellors of the 10 UC campuses called Napolitano's plan fair.
“Our campuses have become leaner and more efficient — but there remains a funding gap that, if left unaddressed, imperils the future of the University of California,” the chancellors said in a joint statement.
Napolitano said that in developing the plan, she spoke with students, members of the UC Board of Regents and faculty members, and considered several options besides across-the-board annual increases.
One idea that was explored and eventually abandoned would have charged students on a sliding scale based on their majors. Another would have not required students to pay tuition until after they had finished their studies and found jobs.