California Tuition Hike Draws Anger

The University of California system, the nation's largest, has announced a tuition hike for the fifth year in a row. Students are angry, and some educators are beginning to question whether the costs of a college education in California are getting out of reach. California's state system was once the most affordable in the nation.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

The University of California has announced that tuition fees will go up 8 percent next year. It's the fifth year in a row that students will pay more to attend the nation's largest public university system, and the school says the total cost of a four-year degree, including room and board, is now approaching $100,000. NPR's Elaine Korry reports.

ELAINE KORRY reporting:

Students are angry, questioning whether the university still serves all Californians. The latest fee hike works out to about $500, bringing total yearly fees to 7,300. It's still less than what you'd pay at the University of Illinois or Michigan or Virginia, but that doesn't help senior Sarah Wandalosky(ph), a political science major at the system's flagship campus, UC Berkeley.

Ms. SARAH WANDALOSKY (Senior, University of California, Berkeley): Every single year fees have been increased. It's gone up--I don't know the actual numbers, but thousands of dollars.

KORRY: And what impact has that had on your financial situation?

Ms. WANDALOSKY: For me, I'm paying for all of my education myself. So it's been very hard. I'm working more during the summer and I'm having to take on extra jobs during the school year to pay for the fee increases.

KORRY: Next year Wandalosky will be a graduate student, so her fees increased even more, 10 percent. It's hard to swallow, especially since administrators got big raises on the same day. And the UC system is under fire for a San Francisco Chronicle report that top employees receive hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden bonuses and other pay. According to Wandalosky, it's just not fair.

Ms. WANDALOSKY: If they're going to pay high salaries to the administrators, what about the professors? And we're losing professors. And you know, you look at the professors at Ivy League schools in--at Stanford, for example, and they're living in huge houses in Atherton, and our professors are living in apartments around here.

KORRY: University officials concede that professors are defecting to the likes of Harvard and Yale for better pay. Administrators also worry about the spiraling costs of an education at the 10 UC campuses, now approaching six figures. At a recent meeting on affordability, UC President Robert Dynes said fees are just part of the problem.

Mr. ROBERT DYNES (University of California President): The cost of going to a university, the cost that a family sees, is not only the tuition and the fees, but it's living expenses, it's books, it's transportation, it's housing; it's all of these things. And, in fact, these other things are actually much greater than the fees--the ability to actually exist and live and transport yourself to the campus.

KORRY: Dynes said he's proud that even with higher fees the UC system still leads the nation in the proportion of students from low-income families. He said this year students received $1.1 billion in grants and scholarships. UC senior Vice President Bruce Darling said the fee increases, although painful, were approved for one reason alone, to offset state budget cuts of as high as 15 percent.

Mr. BRUCE DARLING (Senior Vice President, University of California): But even with the increases in student fees, the university still faces a $500 million shortfall, and that's really hurting the university right at the moment. We are at a tipping point. The quality of the university is still very, very strong, but at the same time, the early warning signs of erosion are palpable. One can feel them everywhere you go in the university.

KORRY: Student-faculty ratios and class sizes are also rising along with fees. But despite the problems, UC Berkeley is still one of the top-ranked universities in the world, and freshman Yuman Salahi(ph), an engineering major, says he's lucky to be here.

Mr. YUMAN SALAHI (Engineering Student): It's definitely unfortunate. I don't want prices to go up, but I'm still saving a lot more money than going to a private school. So it's definitely a good deal.

KORRY: Tuition alone at many high-ranking private schools has topped $40,000 a year. Elaine Korry, NPR News, San Francisco.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: