UC Merced

UC president: Student fees could rise 8 percent

By AMEERA BUTT

abutt@mercedsun-star.com

UC student fees would jump by 8 percent -- or $822 a year -- under a proposal from UC President Mark Yudof.

If approved, the increase could bring the fees up to $11,124 a year.

"This will now enable us to reinvest in the professors, improve academic support and improve services to students (that) can continue," Yudof said.

Out of the $180 million in revenue from the fee increase, a third would feed back into financial aid.

"The fees will still be below Michigan, Penn State and other distinguished public universities," he said. "The main question I ask is, 'who are we teaching? Who sits in those classrooms?' As the fees have gone up, the proportion of low-income students has risen because of the proportion of financial aid. We are serving low- and middle-income students of California through our financial aid arrangement. A third of the students are the first in their families to attend college and over half of all the students come from homes where English is not the primary language."

Yudof proposed some tough recommendations that will be presented at the UC Board of Regents meeting next week. He emphasized preserving the quality of education and financial stability for students and employees and pushing past the economic crisis.

However, Lamar Williams, president of the Associated Students of the University of California of Merced (ASUCM), said UC Merced students were going to be greatly affected by the fee hikes because "we admit most of our students on a financial need basis and some students may not be able to come back in the spring or in the fall whenever they do decide to do the fee increase."

"It's very unfortunate. We hope the regents find another option," he said.

UC's enrollment of California residents has increased by 16,000 students, according to the news release. Moreover, the $370 million increase in funding the state provided this year covers just over half the $637 million that the state cut from UC's budget last year, according to the news release.

Yudof also proposed a modified pension program for new-hire employees after July 2013 and for current employees to pay for their retirement plan.

"For current employees they will see no change for their benefits. They will see no diminution in their benefits, but they will have to pay for it," Yudof said.

Under the University Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers educational and student services fees for families making less than $70,000 a year, families making $80,000 wouldn't pay any education fees to the state of California, he said.

"That figure will go to $80,000. Despite the rising fee, two-thirds of California families will not have to pay one penny if their sons or daughters are admitted in universities in California," he added.

Another recommendation was a waiver of the 8 percent increase for one year under the Blue and Gold program for students whose family incomes are less than $120,000.

"Of course' our fee increase is definitely going to affect higher education whether it be for families who make more than $120,000 or less than $120,000. It will definitely affect the accessibility of higher education for our students," Williams explained.

The Board of Regents will consider Yudof's fee and financial aid proposals at their meeting next week.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsun-star.com.

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