UC Regents approve 32-percent increase in student fees

11/19/2009 12:36 PM

11/20/2009 1:56 PM

Amid scenes that resembled 1960s antiwar and civil rights demonstrations, the University of California Regents approved a two-step 32 percent increase in student fees Thursday.

The increase will first hit students over winter break, with a 15 percent hike for undergraduate students and a 2.6 percent increase for graduate academic students.

The second increase, also 15 percent, will come at the start of the summer semester and will apply to all the system's students.

The Regents' meeting Thursday morning at UCLA was overwhelmed by student protesters, as was a committee meeting the day before.

Thousands of students crowded the campus, camping out in public spaces, occupying a university building, picketing outside and voicing displeasure inside the meeting hall. Just after 11:30 a.m., police cleared the meeting room, after the crowd became rowdy at the end of the public comment period.

Irving Pineda, a member of the UC Merced student government, was able to address the board before the room was cleared.

"I am here to represent students in the Central Valley. UC Merced was placed in the Central Valley to revitalize the horrible conditions the Central Valley finds itself in," Pineda said. "Without students being able to graduate and give back to the CV, the region will keep its tradition of being underserved."

The decision by the 10-campus university's governing board was all but sealed Wednesday, when the Regents Committee on Finance ruled in favor of the increases.

University of California President Mark Yudof said the increases were necessary because of a $1.8 billion shortfall in state funding over the past two years and the possibility of additional cuts this year. Yudof noted that some of the money from the fee increases will be used to help the system's financially neediest students.

The fee increase is expected to generate $505 million, with $175 million going toward an expansion of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, a UC-funded financial aid program that covers all fees for California undergraduates with financial need and family incomes less than $70,000.

Almost 75 percent of UC Merced students receive some form of financial aid -- more than any other UC campus. Merced also hosts the most diverse student body in the system.

The UC Merced office of financial aid will look for increased grant and scholarships for students on campus.

In May, the Regents passed a 9.3 percent student fee increase that was already applied to this school year.

Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

YouTube video from Wednesday's protests:

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