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Anger and anxiety over fee hike at University of California

The University of California Thursday decided on a 32 percent fee hike to make up for slashed state funding. Student protests flare on campuses.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 20, 2009

Demonstrators chant as they sit on a road on the UCLA campus to block a van holding attendees from driving away from the Covel Commons building where University of California regents were scheduled to vote on a 32 percent student fee increase, on Thursday.

Danny Moloshok/AP


Westwood, Calif.

Student anger is still smoldering on the sidewalk between Sproul Hall and Covel Commons on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). On Thursday, carrying placards reading "Save Public Education" and "Yes, We Can Take Back Our University," hundreds of students here protested the University of California regents' decision to approve an overall 32 percent increase in student fees for next year.

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By evening, the crush of news trucks and handheld placards had dwindled here. But Friday morning, student ire revived at UC Berkeley, where about 50 students took over a campus building, shouting slogans from a second-floor window through a bullhorn, according to news reports.

Most students agree with the protesters if not with their tactics, says UCLA sociology/Asian studies major Lucy Tseng, who complained of protesters "going through our dormitories screaming and pulling the fire alarms."

Ms. Tseng, in her second year here, pays $7,500 of her own money for tuition now but is facing nearly a $11,000 bill next fall.

"My future education is definitely in jeopardy," says Tseng, who already works three jobs. She is also worried about the people who won't even apply to the university now because they can't afford it.

On a bench just outside the student union cafeteria Thursday, three students huddled around a laptop, watching a video of University of California President Mark Yudof explaining why the regents had no choice.

Faced with a budget deficit that is expected to grow to $1.2 billion in 2010/2011 – largely due to slashed state funding – the university has already cut pay, laid off 2,000 people, reduced supplies, and cut late hours for libraries, he said.

"We are down over a billion dollars, and the state is down another $20 billion," Mr. Yudof said, "[T]his is just a situation where the student's rightful expectations just exceed the resources of the state of California."

Fee hikes for all students

The fee increases include a mid-year fee hike of $585, or 15 percent, for undergraduates and graduate professional school students. In addition, all students will see another 15 percent increase, or $1,334 total, in summer 2010.

The regents also approved increases in professional degree fees for 2010-11 that range from $280 to $5,696.

The fee hikes, which apply to California residents in the 10-campus UC system, one of the country's largest, are expected to bring in $505 million.

Students on the UCLA campus aren't convinced the hikes are necessary.