UC president proposes a third year of tuition freezes

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comNovember 13, 2013 

— University of California President Janet Napolitano on Wednesday proposed freezing undergraduate tuition on at the system’s 10 campuses, including UC Merced, while officials study changes that could keep costs down.

Napolitano spoke during a UC Board of Regents meeting – her first since becoming president – and expressed a desire to “bring clarity to, and reduce volatility in” school tuition. She made several other proposals as well.

“Tuition goes right to the heart of accessibility and affordability – two of the university’s guiding stars,” Napolitano said in a news release. “It’s time for the university to collaboratively come up with another way.”

Undergraduate California residents at UC Merced pay $13,070 for tuition and fees, according to the school’s website.

For UC Merced students such as Chris Reding of Bakersfield, a freeze is welcome news. The human biology major has seen a few increases in his four years at the university, and said he was glad to hear it might not go up next year.

“That’s good news for me,” Reding said, adding that he’ll probably be back for a fifth year. “I can’t complain.”

Reding, 21, said his parents help when they can but he’s paying for school with “lots of student loans.”

He said he has his eyes on medical school, which will add to his debt load.

“I plan on being in debt, for a few years at least, after college,” Reding said. “So, a freeze is good news to me.”

Another student, Delfino Orea, said he’s well situated because he gets financial aid. However, the 20-year-old computer engineering student said he worries about classmates who have to pay for school by working.

“Everybody has to work hard just to come here,” the Los Angeles native said while sitting on a planter at UC Merced. “To have to work even harder to stay here because of an increase – that would be ridiculous.”

The cost of tuition has not gone up in the UC system since 2011-12, but the price tag has doubled since 2004-05. UC Merced’s first school year was 2005-06.

Napolitano said the tuition increases of the past several years were the result of the recession and the loss of state funding.

“Now the seas have calmed, and so the time is right to take a new, deep look at tuition policy,” she said in the news release.

One option to be considered is “cohort tuition,” which would ensure that what students pay when they enter a university will not dramatically increase during their four undergraduate years. Other options would be under consideration, the release stated.

Another goal Napolitano announced during Wednesday’s meeting was an increase in transfers to UC schools from California community colleges such as Merced College.

Everett Lovelace, the vice president of student services at Merced College, said the UC system raised its minimum requirements for admission in recent years and scaled back its guaranteed admissions program. Those two changes have made it harder for community college students to transfer.

Lovelace said that as Merced College saw its budget cut, the number of class sections were slashed. He said that’s one area where his school could improve students’ chances of transferring.

“At this point, we’ve kind of stabilized,” Lovelace said. “So, their chances are greater than they were a couple of years ago.”

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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