SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The University of California has delayed a vote on a proposed tuition increase after criticism from Gov. Jerry Brown and impassioned pleas from students who urged the UC governing board to push harder for state funding and not raise the cost of their education for the second consecutive year.
UC President Janet Napolitano said that after hearing students concerns, the governing body was "better advised to defer voting on this item until its May meeting."
The UC Board of Regents was scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposed increase of $342, or 2.7 percent, in annual tuition and fees for the 2018-19 academic year.
If approved, the cost for California residents, who currently pay $12,630 in tuition and fees annually, would increase to $12,972.
Out-of-state students would pay an additional $978, or an increase of 3.5 percent, bringing their total for annual tuition and fees to $28,992. The regents approved a similar increase last January, the first increase since 2011.
Nearly two dozen students delivered impassioned pleas to the regents saying higher tuition puts too much burden on students already struggling to pay for their education. They urged the regents to reject the proposal or at least delay their vote to allow more time to lobby the Legislature and Gov. Brown for additional state funding.
Brown emailed a letter to the Board of Regents from Sacramento ahead of the vote that called the proposed tuition increase "premature."
"I encourage you to reject outright the current proposal to increase student tuition," Brown said in his letter. "I urge you to focus on reducing the system's cost structures rather than increasing the financial burden on students."
UC Berkeley student Kylie Murdock told the regents meeting in San Francisco that she comes from a middle-class family, receives no financial aid and her parents constantly worry whether they can afford college for her and three other siblings.
The increase of "$342 may seem like a drop in the bucket," she told the regents, but the cost of education is becoming "no longer affordable or accessible."
Murdock and others directed comments to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a UC regent and the front-runner to succeed Brown next year as governor. Murdock reminded Newsom that "students are a very large voting bloc."
Newsom opposes a tuition increase, saying it lets the Legislature off the hook and that it is "strategically short-sighted" to vote on a tuition increase before Sacramento begins budget discussions.
"I share the frustration of students and families who don't understand why another tuition increase is even up for consideration," Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.
UC officials say they were left with no choice but to propose an increase after Brown allotted less funding for California's public universities than expected in his 2018-19 budget proposal earlier this month.
Brown proposed a 3 percent increase in base funding for the UC system in his 2018-19 budget plan, which is down from a 4 percent increase in previous years. He also urged university officials to "live within their means."
The state budget will go through numerous revisions before a final vote is held in June.
Napolitano had said ahead of Wednesday's meeting the 3 percent increase is less than anticipated under a plan with the governor. She said in a statement that UC was committed to its plan to add 2,000 California undergraduates and 500 graduate students in fall 2018.
"The campuses have asked for this increase because they need it at a time when California undergraduate enrollment is at an all-time high," UC spokeswoman Claire Doan said. The additional revenue from tuition increases would go toward hiring more faculty members, creating new courses and funding additional mental health services, she said.
The UC Student Association said it collected nearly 3,000 signatures in an online petition against the tuition hike, said student organizer Maxwell Lubin.
"For the UC to commit to a tuition hike before the UC budget is even set, makes no sense," said Lubin, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, said earlier Wednesday.
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