UC & CSU’s lose prestige over tuition increase

October 12, 2009 — by Sulmaan Hassan

Upon entering a university, students are surprised to find themselves already struggling to pay for books, room and board and transportation. Now, however, it is alarming to see the effect that hiking up UC, CSU and community college tuitions have on students fresh off the boat from high school. Matters have only gone from bad to worse.

UCs, privileged to be in such high demand from students across the nation, are suddenly in need of sustenance in response to the state’s decision to slash $115.5 million over the next two years. In order to keep afloat in the current budget crisis, UCs have raised a proposal to raise undergraduate fees to about $10,300 a year by the fall of 2010, a 32 percent increase. This will undoubtedly come as a financial shock to not only lower-income families, but also to countless middle class households that may have recently suffered sudden unemployment or decrease in salary.
Yet there is no alternative to at least some tuition increase. Universities are already making substantial slashes of relatively essential educational needs, laying off staff members, cutting classes and decreasing salaries. To the extent that this has gone, these changes will damage California for years to come. We should be investing in bright young minds rather than driving them away from public universities. These campuses are decaying by treating students like assets to combat their financial deficiency.
But according to New York Times, officials at UC and CSU campuses are justifying these large tuition increases by saying one-third of the increases will go to financial aid to offset the impact on students. This rationalization is redundant. It would be more efficient to cut fees by one-third and not have to go through the redistribution of revenue to various students.
It is important to realize the socioeconomic impacts of such a spike in tuition. Students with a wealthier background will be able to handle the increases, whereas students from poorer and families will not and will have to resort to financial aid, which they may or may not qualify for. Middle class students, who usually scrape by with the help of partial financial aid, may find themselves unsupported by well-meaning, yet unsympathetic admissions officers while applying for such aid.
Financial aid has become tough to get, as it is now primarily reserved for needy families, leaving the middle-class families with the short end of the stick. While helping the less fortunate financially is a noble cause, California universities have unwittingly failed to take into account a major socio-economic group, minds that have bolstered the prestige of their campuses. The state will pay for these decisions with fewer productive minds in the future, tarnishing the reputations of these once-great universities.