UC students dig deep to stay afloat

The Great Recession appears to be easing, but at least one group in California remains financially stressed – students at the University of California.


Tuition, now at about $13,000 a year, has skyrocketed 62 percent since 2007, a figure that doesn’t include an array of necessities, such as books, health insurance,

transportation and other costs. When those are factored in, students who live on on-campus pay about $32,000 annually. Off-campus students save a bit, paying about $29,000.

And these costs are for California residents. Non-resident tuition and costs are nearly double, or about $55,000 annually for those living on campus. The fact that out-of-state students pay more is a lure for UC and other educational systems who seek to plug strapped budgets.


“Whether you’re a student or not, I think it’s important to realize that we, as taxpayers, all pay into the UC system, “says recent UC Davis graduate Jill Hagey. She put the work in to obtain scholarships while enrolled, but her pursuit in getting a degree in biology was affected by some of the protests against tuition hikes in 2010.


“I understand my own personal responsibility to go after my education,” says Hagey.  “I think some people might just see it as a school, but you don’t realize its impact. It shouldn’t be about money, it’s about making a difference.”


No matter what the year or how much it costs, being accepted by UC is still more popular than ever. According to the official UC Information Summary, the number of freshmen applicants has climbed to a record 160,000 students in fall 2012.


In 2011, there was a 6.1 percent increase in applicants over the year before — and 2010 was a record, too. Figures also showed a jump in students from out of state and around the world seeking entrance to UC, with international applicants up by more than a fifth and out-of-state applicants by some 12 percent.


UC, founded in 1868, has long been considered one of the most prestigious educational systems in the world. Ten campuses – the latest was Merced in 2005 — offer unprecedented scholastic programs in medicine, technology, humanities, law and more.


Despite its academic quality, UC has come in for intense criticism in recent years, in part because of its perceived top-heavy and overlapping administration, and high administrative salaries, its lack of political acumen, its soaring tuition costs, and more.


UC Davis recently reached a settlement with the students who were illegally pepper-sprayed during an “Occupy” rally in November 2011, an incident that captured international attention and damaged the institution’s image.


On a lighter note, UC recently redesigned its traditional logo, but the new version drew widespread criticism and the school pulled back. That incident, too, didn’t help UC’s image.


Meanwhile, UC President Mark Yudof announced his resignation from his $600,000-a-year job after five years, citing health concerns. Yudof will be starting his new job teaching law at UC Berkeley beginning next fall.


Gov. Jerry Brown, in presenting his 2013-14 budget blueprint, acknowledged the soaring costs of UC students and the student-loan debt many are forced to shoulder.


“With respect to higher education, cost pressures are relentless,” said Governor Brown. “Many students cannot get the classes they need. Tuition increases are not the answer. I will not let students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities.”


Dianne Klein, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President acknowledges that times are tough. But she noted that there have been times when they were a lot tougher.

“After nearly $1 billion in cuts since 2008, state funding for UC is at the same level it was in 1997, when there were 75,000 fewer students – equivalent to the UC Berkeley and UCLA campuses combined, “ says Klein.  “Tuition increases have accounted for only 38 percent of the budget gap resulting from state funding cuts during the past five years.”


Brown also emphasized the growing need for online educational resources, allocating $10 million in an effort to match rising tuition costs to actual student opportunity.


Both public and private entities have taken a look at the revenue potential of online education, and there are a number of major contenders. The University of Phoenix and Chapman University, as well as private schools like Drexel and Kaplan, have cultivated a new approach at getting a degree.


While new competitors spring up all the time, Klein believes the UC system as a whole has little to worry about. “Applications are at an all time high. Overall UC affordability, especially compared with private universities, is strong. “


“The ‘new normal’ will continue – more belt-tightening, more efficiencies, more ways of doing more with less,” Klein added. “We are actively engaged in developing new models for delivering education while still maintaining UC quality.”


As for Hagey, she still regards the UC system as part of her network of success and stresses the importance of educating oneself before getting into the Education Game.


“In a few years of being out of school I am going to end up paying back all the money I was granted through those programs via my taxes. So really in the long run the state is going to get more revenue from me by helping me.”



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