Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

UC eyes plan to eliminate tuition altogether

By Nanette Asimov

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s not every day that University of California students tell UC President Mark Yudof to abolish tuition — and he says he’ll consider it.

But that’s exactly what happened at Wednesday’s regents meeting at UC Riverside, as Yudof praised the students’ tuition plan as “a constructive idea.”

“We will give it a close look,” he said. “I have directed Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom and our best number crunchers to review it thoroughly.”

The students say their creativity could be a windfall for UC, and actually triple its revenue over 20 years.

Yudof’s attention to the no-tuition proposal developed by UC Riverside students is extraordinary because he and the regents have come to depend on hefty annual tuition increases to make up for much of the funds they no longer receive from the state.

UC receives slightly more than $2 billion from the state’s general fund, about $1 billion less than it had been getting in recent years. Lawmakers cut $750 million from UC’s budget this fiscal year alone.

As a result, the world-class public university system considers itself in a financial crisis: course sections have been eliminated, maintenance drastically cut back and staff laid off. UC is also providing millions of dollars in raises this year, which the regents have said are needed to maintain the quality of the university.

Today, as the regents conclude their two-day meeting, they were expected to focus almost entirely on developing revenue sources beyond the state, and beyond tuition.

The students’ proposal fits right in. Instead of paying tuition — currently at $12,192, not including mandatory fees, room, board or books — the “UC Student Investment Proposal” would require that students commit to paying 5 percent of their annual income for 20 years after graduating.

“Under this plan, no undergraduate student would have to worry about paying for their UC education while they are in school,” Chris LoCascio, president of “Fix UC” — the group of UC Riverside students that developed the idea — said in a written presentation to the regents.

The students calculate that, under the most conservative estimates, UC could triple its revenue over the next two decades to $4.6 billion. The plan would be phased in over several years, and students say UC would begin receiving more income from graduates than from tuition by year seven.

“The UC system will be far better off, financially under this proposed,” concludes the seven-page report submitted to the regents.

Math behind the plan

The students say the mean starting salary for a UC graduate is $46,356, so they based their revenue estimates on an income of $50,000. Students who pay $2,500 a year — 5 percent of $50,000 — for 20 years would end up paying $50,000 for their education, slightly more than the $48,768 they would pay over four years if UC tuition were frozen at its current level.

On the other hand, students earning $100,000 would pay $5,000 a year, or $100,000 for their education over two decades.

“That’s still less than what they would pay for a private education,” said LoCascio, editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, the Highlander, who told the regents Wednesday that they “can’t afford not to adopt the plan.”

Brostrom and Patrick Lenz, two of UC’s top financial executives, thought enough of the idea to visit LoCascio in his campus office on Monday. “We had a fantastic discussion about it,” LoCascio said.

Student regent Alfredo Mireles called his proposal “exciting.” Not all students thought the plan appropriate.

“I’m against it,” said Jessica Greenstreet, a politics and theater major at UC Santa Cruz who was not at the meeting. “Public education is a public good, and should be paid for by the public, through taxes.”

In fact, Greenstreet’s tuition is paid for through the GI Bill because her father was a Marine. By contrast, Autumn Thomas had to drop out of UC Davis this year after only one semester because the tuition was more than she could afford.

“The idea sounds pretty reasonable to me,” she said. “Actually, I think it sounds like a great plan.”

— Reach Nanette Asimov at nasimov@sfchronicle.com

San Francisco Chronicle

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 6 comments

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  • JusSayinJanuary 19, 2012 - 3:39 pm

    It's depressing to think my tax dolars are wasted on someone like the Jessica Greenstreet of UCSC quoted in this article.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • UCDJanuary 19, 2012 - 3:55 pm

    Wow... Solid plan. As a soon to graduate UC student I really like this plan. This would encourage the universities to give great education so that the students will get higher paying jobs and end up contributing more to the schools. Looks like a win-win to me. I'm all for it!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinJanuary 19, 2012 - 4:31 pm

    This is not a new idea. In 1970, the Carnegie Commission proposed to create a National Student Loan Bank, which would be paid back based on a percentage of future earnings by those who borrowed from it. Later, Milton Friedman became an advocate for this kind of student loans, saying that the those who gained the most from their higher educations would end up paying back the most.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SkepticScientistJanuary 19, 2012 - 8:25 pm

    Seems like this creates even greater incentive for universities to invest in training students in technical areas and would contribute to the erosion of humanities departments. Let's do it! Down with the English departments of California!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Sheryl GreenstreetJanuary 20, 2012 - 3:49 pm

    I am Jessica's mother and I wanted to say that she was misquoted by the Chronical and they got their facts wrong. Firstly, my husband is not and has never been in the Marines. He spent 24 years as a loadmaster in the Air Force. Because he is a retired vet with disability, my daughter is able to attend UCSC tuition free. We pay her room and board, books and other living expenses. She is a bright, articulate young woman who can answer for herself, but is not savy about talking with the press. She greatly appreciates the VA paying her tuition and knows how fortunate she is.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • KimraJanuary 20, 2012 - 9:41 pm

    It's an interesting idea, but I am skeptical how feasible it is. First, it would be a logistical nightmare to track alumni for 20 years after graduation and collect the dues, not to mention how costly it would be to do so. Is it even legally viable to claim a fixed percentage of one's future income? What is the person has other debts that he/she has to pay off? Does UC get any priority over other creditors? It would also be likely that UC's income would be more volatile depending on the economic climate. It may not be a bad idea to pilot with a small fraction of the incoming students though.

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