Fee Increases and Faculty Furloughs at California’s Public Universities Inspire Walkout

As students head back to class at the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU), concern over cuts and fees is on the rise. Today’s walkout at the UC comes as increases in fees – which do not include expenses such as room, board, and books – will make affording college challenging for many California students and their families.

Last week’s proposal to increase UC student fees comes less than five months after the last round of fee increases. If the proposal is approved, undergraduate fees for UC students who are California residents would increase to $10,302 in 2010-11, 44.6 percent more than what undergraduates paid just last year. If the UC’s Board of Regents approves the current proposal, fees will be more than three times higher than they were in 1990-91, after adjusting for inflation.

In July, the CSU increased 2009-10 undergraduate fees for California residents to $4,026, 32.1 percent more than students paid in 2008-09. The CSU’s latest round of fee increases comes after a 10 percent fee hike in both 2007-08 and 2008-09. Inflation-adjusted CSU fees have more than tripled over the past 20 years.

To compound matters, UC and CSU faculty furloughs and other budget cutting measures mean students will pay more for less. CSU faculty will work two fewer days per month, which translates into a 9.2 percent pay cut. The majority of faculty and staff at the UC are required to take from 11 to 26 furlough days this year resulting in a four to 10 percent reduction depending on a faculty member’s salary. The UC’s requirement that faculty furloughs not occur on instructional days may cause a professor to show up to class, but the increased workload likely will reduce the quality of education students receive. Recent budget cuts have severely tarnished what was once a central part of the California dream – access to a high-quality, affordable college education.

— Jonathan Kaplan

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