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UC tuition could nearly double under budget plan


SAN FRANCISCO — University of California officials on Thursday proposed a long-term budget plan that could lead to steep tuition hikes over the next four years if the state doesn't boost funding to the 10-campus system.

School administrators presented the multiyear budget proposal at the UC Board of Regents, which is seeking to address a looming $2.5 billion budget shortfall driven by rising costs and shrinking state support. The regents discussed the plan but didn't take any action.

University officials said the plan would provide financial stability to campuses, allow families to plan for college tuition bills and help the system secure a long-term funding commitment from the governor and state Legislature.

"We must try to reach an agreement with the state of California that will allow us to plan enrollment growth and tuition rates and capital improvements over the course of years," UC President Mark Yudof told the regents.

Under the plan, UC would raise tuition by as much as 16 percent each year if the state doesn't increase funding to the UC system, which has about 412,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

The size of the tuition hike would depend on how much the state contributes. For example, if the state boosts funding by 8 percent, the university would increase tuition by 8 percent. A 4-percent increase in state funding would lead to a 12-percent tuition hike.

If state funding remains flat for the next five years, basic tuition for California residents would top $22,000 by the 2015-2016 academic year.

Undergraduates currently pay $12,192 in annual tuition, which doesn't include room, board or campus fees. That's more than three times what they paid a decade ago.

Claudia Magana, president of the University of California Students Association, said a multiyear budget plan would reduce pressure on lawmakers and school administrators to find other funding sources besides student tuition.

"To walk us into a plan that depends on student fees is a poor choice," said Magana, who attends UC Santa Cruz. "The ones who going to be impacted the most are middle-class students" who receive limited financial aid.

Over the past three years, the UC system has seen dramatic swings in government funding as the state struggles to close massive budget shortfalls caused by the economic downturn.

In July, UC officials approved a 9.8 percent tuition increase for the current school year — on top of a previously approved 8 percent — after the state reduced UC funding by $650 million, or about 20 percent. The system could lose another $100 million if the state generates less revenue than anticipated.

This year for the first time, the University of California will receive more money from student tuition and fees than it receives from the state.

Some regents supported the multiyear budget plan, but others want the university to seek other ways to address its financial challenges.

Board Chair Sherry Lansing asked school officials to develop plans to raise revenue by lobbying state lawmakers, seeking corporate donations and building public support for the university.

"This scenario that we're looking at is not what we want," Lansing said. "There's not a person around this table that wants to increase tuition. We've done enough. I want to talk about what we can do to change this dynamic."