On January 4th, 2017, a tuition increase, the first in six years, was approved across University of California schools. The increase will raise in-state tuition by 2.5% and increase the student services fee. The increase is even larger for out-of-state students, whose supplemental tuition will increase by 5%. The increase has faced much opposition, especially as many students believe that tuition should be decreased instead.
Parker Spadaro, a first-year Political Science major, believes these increases will unfairly impact students' lives for years to come:
I think the recent increases are predatory and malicious. Tuition prices already were at their previous amount. Students have to work themselves to a detrimental degree to pay off their tuition. We have to balance school, work, a social life and so many other things. Meanwhile students have the choice of overworking themselves to afford college or taking out a loan. If they choose the former, they're trapped working a low wage job for a ridiculous amount of hours to the point that it's detrimental for their well being and their academic life since they have less time to focus on schoolwork and learning, the thing they're at a university to do. If they choose the latter, they are stuck in an ever increasing debt after they graduate. They suffer from the financial stress as their debt builds up even past the breaking point. There's students going hungry to save money to afford their rent and tuition costs. With so much debt, they're essentially indentured servants to either our government or a privately owned corporation. In this context, both institutions are predatory and parasitic draining the life out of students in need because the students have less power in the form of capital than these institutions.
Still, many are not surprised by these increases. Dexter Hampton, a first-year Environmental Science major, anticipated this, even though he feels it is unjust.
I think that this rise is unsurprising, but regardless frustrating. After our record number of admissions this year, of course they would want to take advantage of the huge number of students who are now committed to the school. The University has become akin to a cable company, baiting people in and raising the prices without consent from the customer.
These increases come after a tuition freeze spanning several years. When the threat of a different tuition increase presented itself in 2014, a huge protest was held at the UC Davis administration building, with over five hundred students attending. Now, because it has been so many years since the last tuition increase, some students like Logen Ardnt, an undeclared freshman in the College of Biological Science, believe an increase would have happened eventually anyway.
I was well aware this increase was coming for years. The last time they tried to increase tuition they decided to wait a few more years but everyone was told it would still eventually go up. The increase should be expected as the natural rise of prices of everything in this nation as time goes on. Everything gets more expensive, it's just the way it is. I do think this was justified because without raising tuition we couldn't pay for all the extra services the school continues to offer students.
The rise in tuition concerns some, especially when considering the large wages many UC executives have. According to Spadaro:
I don't see how anyone can see these increases as justified when our chancellor makes an over $400,000 salary. Also when the university spent over $175,000 to try to erase its incident of pepper spraying students from the internet. The regents also recently approved of increasing the salaries of some top executives of 3%. Why should the students have to pay more when our chancellors profits so greatly from our need for education?
Hampton echoed a similar sentiment:
... let's not make excuses about the cost of up-keeping the university and its programs. That hike was only for one reason, to give a nice raise to those at the top.
No matter one's personal opinions on the politics regarding these tuition changes, they are sure to have quite an impact on students and their families. For Spadaro:
I will be affected by this by needing to work more hours at my minimum wage job to afford to attend here. There's others who are already so deeply in debt that this will just destroy them even more and prolong how long they'll be paying it off. This will make less working class people consider college an option as it gets more expensive. I know I considered not attending UC Davis because of the expense associated with it. It sets a dangerous precedent for them to keep increasing it by small increments each year or so until it's even more outrageously expensive.
For Hampton and others who find a moral conflict with giving more money to a controversial institution like UC, the tuition increase is even more difficult:
I came to UC Davis to study environmental science. I chose to move here from Ohio because I am genuinely terrified of climate change. I have dedicated my life to fighting it. Meanwhile, UC has over $10 billion invested in fossil fuels. I am literally paying them so that I can clean up the mess that they are causing. This price hike puts my tuition at over $50,000 a year, and I am paying for that entirely by myself. I will likely be in debt for the rest of my life because of my commitments to fighting for a better future.
The UC schools are some of the most popular in the country. However, with the changing prices, more and more students will struggle to pay for the valuable education provided. For now, the trend of overwhelming student debt will seem to continue.
Lead Image: Brian Nguyen via Flickr Creative Commons.