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.