Saturday, November 21, 2009

UC Students Protest a 32% Increase In Fees

TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

So when you're doing something on the government dime--something like working, or going to school--you must expect that money will be tight for you when money is tight for the government. Here in California that means furloughs for state workers, cuts in services, and a 32% fee hike at our University of California campuses.

I cannot determine from press coverage whether this is a tuition increase or a fee increase. The term "fee" is used, but the context seems as if it's tuition that's being raised. Whichever it is, the numbers being reported are an increase from about $7500/year to about $10,000/year.

Of course, there have been some protests, most notably at UCLA and Berkeley. And while I'm sympathetic to arguments on both sides of this issue, I cannot help but agree with this one:

First and foremost, the protests are about privileged kids demanding subsidies from working people. The UC system will continue to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and the students who attend are among the most naturally gifted, with the highest future earning potential, in the country. This is especially true at the system's flagship schools of Berkeley and UCLA, where the protests have been most intense. Narcissism and self-absorption are the norm on college campuses, but it really is pushing the limits to throw such a tantrum at the idea that you will be getting a smaller amount of free money taken out of the paychecks of strapped taxpayers, most of whom could never dream of the advantages and opportunities you enjoy.

On the other hand, California determined long ago that it was a valid state interest to have an affordable higher education system accessible to all. Accordingly, California has a 3-tiered higher education system: community/junior colleges, the 23-campus California State University system, and the 10-campus premier University of California system. Tuition in these systems, as throughout all of higher education, has risen faster than wages and inflation, taking them further out of reach for some students. Still, I highly doubt tuition covers the cost of education; the state is bringing in less money, and somehow the difference must be made up in increased costs to students, cuts in services, or both.

Additionally, many students get some kind of financial aid, so the increase in tuition is really just shifting money from one part of government (government funding of UC) to another (financial aid), with taxpayers continuing to foot the bill.

Still, 32% is rather steep. But let's face it, students are part of the problem here. How many stories have we heard about universities building new state-of-the-art gymnasium complexes, complete with rock walls and such, or new restaurant complexes complete with coffee shops and wi-fi, to attract students. New dorms with luxurious common areas, private baths, etc. In other words, yuppie-to-be accommodations. Someone has to pay for those non-academic expenses, and it shouldn't be the taxpayer.

And if this is fees and not tuition, let's not forget what some of those fees, those above-and-beyond-tuition expenses, cover: ASB membership, athletic program subsidies, student organizations and clubs (that a particular student may or may not ever use), etc.

There's plenty of fault here for this increase in fees, but not all of it rests on the shoulders of the UC Regents.


libhom said...

These fee increases are unnecessary. All that needs to be done is for the rich to pay their fair share in taxes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm sure that when Cal State LA decided to sink $45,000 into a biometric hand scanner for access to the school's exercise facilities, the students deserved to eat that, even though the students were pretty against it. Using a student ID to access the seemed to work out for the students. The school said it saved over the cost of printing student IDs, which I'm sure the school forgot that they'd have to print anyway. But yeah, the students should totally eat it when the school acts outside of their interests.

I'm a student, I'm fine with paying more if I'm getting more and it's in my best interest. Paying more for school when I'm getting less out of it and schools can budget for a $45,000 biometric hand scanner that's unnecessary but they have to cut classes that are graduation requirements, I feel like it's not in my best interest, and why should I have to eat those costs?

But if you're right and students are the problem, then that shouldn't be much longer. Schools are proactively searching ways to get students out. I, personally, would rather pay more taxes. Not just for my own education, but I'd like to think that colleges will still exist here when I have children one day.

Darren said...

I can see why you wouldn't want to pay for that scanner--but I don't want to pay for it, either.

Then again, those costs I mentioned--hand scanner wasn't among them. Do you have a restaurant complex at school? A fancy student union? A coffee bar? How are the dorms? (Sac State is building new ones.) If students want to live an upper middle class lifestyle in college, let mommy and daddy pay for it--not me.

I don't mind ponying up part of the cost of your education. I do mind ponying up for student luxuries.

Clix said...

Your post is featured in this week's EduCarnival!

I love getting to read posts from people I'm not familiar with, so it'd be awesome if you'd put up a quick note on your blog or website linking to the carnival and encouraging your readers to submit as well.