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Tuition hikes price UC out of reach for some locals

Board of Regents meets this week to discuss new increase
By: Kirsten Read Journal Correspondent
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The University of California system this week could raise tuition for the second time in less than a year as officials respond to more state budget cuts. And the potential outcome is hitting local students, including one who says she will have to change schools. The University of California Board of Regents meets today through Thursday in San Francisco to consider options to bridge the billion-dollar budget shortfall resulting from steep cuts in state funding to the university, according to UC officials. UC President Mark Yudof is preparing to recommend to the Board of Regents, the only body able to pass a budget or raise tuition, that roughly one-quarter of the shortfall be offset with tuition increases, according to Patrick Lenz, UC vice president for budget and capital resources. The current cost and proposed tuition hike have already forced one local graduate to change plans. Arraine Siefert, 19, is a 2010 Colfax High School graduate who attended UC Davis last year to study environmental science. Despite her determination and academic success, Siefert is unable to attend next year due to financial difficulties, and will be attending Sierra College in the fall. “I am very willing to work for my education, but it is physically impossible for me to work full-time and maintain a reasonable GPA while going to school full time,” Siefert said. “I’m sure there are thousands of other students in my position right now. I’m just someone who worked hard in high school and was a normal happy kid. [Getting scholarships] is impossibly competitive, with impossible standards yet here I am, trying my hardest under my current circumstances. But I do deserve an education.” Siefert has come to question whether her first year at UC Davis was “a very expensive mistake.” According to Siefert, that year of education required loans that may take her years to pay off. “I think it was worth the experience, but I do think it was the wrong decision for me. I didn’t realize that I had another option,” Siefert said. “I think colleges, especially the UCs, do so many things that they could cut back on, and are spending money that doesn’t need to be spent. Maybe it isn’t fair that tuition keeps increasing. My parents believe that it should be the state and university’s responsibility to pay for a public education, rather than continue to increase how much we pay for it.” The deficit the board faces is in part caused by a budget plan signed by Gov. Jerry Brown June 30 that cut UC’s funding by $650 million for 2011-12. According to Lenz, it has been determined that a tuition increase of 9.6 percent, in addition to the 8 percent previously approved by the regents for the 2011-12 school year, would cover nearly $150 million of this $650 million. Furthermore, additional state budget cuts are looming, meaning additional tuition increases, officials warn. The total reduction could rise to $750 million if projected state revenues to not materialize, according to UC officials. This means if the state does not realize $4 billion in tax revenues, which the recently passed budget relies on, the UC system will face an additional $100 million midyear cut and a resulting additional 5.9 percent tuition increase, according to an agenda item for the upcoming meeting of the UC Board of Regents. “We reported to the regents in May that if we were to receive additional cuts beyond $500 million, we would have to offset those cuts with a dollar-for-dollar tuition increase,” Lenz said in a news release. “Our campuses and the UC Office of the President already have cut to the bone — implementing administrative efficiencies, furloughing and laying off employees, consolidating and eliminating programs, increasing class sizes, delaying faculty hires, reducing services and delaying purchases, among other actions. We will present to the regents a variety of measures that we believe will preserve the quality of education, research and public service benefiting Californians in every part of the state, and ensure access to students from families with low and moderate incomes through financial aid.” Spencer Hitchcock, a 2011 Colfax High School graduate and valedictorian, will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall, and is also experiencing the tuition increases first-hand. “The financial aid offered by UC Berkeley was a big factor in my decision to go to that school,” Hitchcock said. “It’s getting ridiculously expensive at this point and really goes against the definition of a public university. The raise in tuition is almost a necessary evil though because either they raise tuition, provide more funding for schools, or stop paying the staff as much as they do.” But despite the strain and concern created by tuition increases, the UC system still provides, as Hitchcock states, “the cheapest way to get the best education possible.” Jack Moran is a 2010 Colfax High School graduate who made the decision to attend Sierra College with the hopes of transferring to UC Davis after completing his general education. “Sierra College is closer to home so I wouldn’t have to pay rent,” Moran said. “I thought that going to a community college would be an easier introduction to the college experience, and tuition is a lot cheaper.” Moran believes that the tuition increase will have long term affects, and that the state should be placing more emphasis on funding for education. “If the tuition rates keep going up, it’s going to mean less people going to college and getting a higher education.” Moran said. “This will affect not only our current condition, but our future leadership.”