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Green Economics

How to fix California's college tuition problem

California residents are frustrated over the UC university system's uniform pricing. Would it be better if each campus set its own tuition rates?

By Guest blogger / January 22, 2012

A protester stands outside a teleconference meeting of the Board of Regents regents of the University of California, on the campus at UCLA in this November 2011 file photo. All nine UC campuses have the same tuition rates.

Reed Saxon/AP/File

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Students want an excellent education and low tuition but a "free lunch" is hard to find during these tough times.  The LA Times has some choice quotes over the pain and frustration playing out in California.  As I understand it, all nine UC Campuses charge the same tuition prices.  This is the problem.  

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Mathew is an economics professor at UCLA and has written three books: Green Cities (Brookings Institution Press); Heroes and Cowards (Princeton University Press, jointly with Dora L. Costa); and in fall 2010, Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter World (Basic Books).

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I suggest that each UC campus be allowed to set its own tuition and that the rules are such that 10% of the collected revenue is redistributed from the top 4 schools in terms of tuition is sent to the 5 campuses that charge less.   If the UC feels innovative, it could charge different tuition prices by campus and by major.  Such customization of tuition would generate more revenue, offer students more financing options.    One definition of discrimination is to treat different UC campuses the same.

While people moan about rising UC tuition, they forget that the UC is much cheaper than Ivy League schools (our peers!) and that many students transfer into the UC from a community college.  This means that their effective tuition is roughly 30% lower because the formula (assuming an interest rate of 0%) becomes  .5*community college tuition + .5*UC in-state tuition.  

Switching subjects:   I would like to show my appreciation to my uncountable number of blog readers by revealing my blog royalties for the last 3 months.

Publication:
Environmental and Urban Economics
Earnings This Reporting Period:
$28.30
So, over the course of 3 months I post around 100 entries. If it takes me 10 minutes to write each of these then that's 1000 minutes or roughly 16 hours so $28/16 = $1.6 an hour  ---- not bad for a big bad full prof at UCLA?

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