Black and white picture of Ronald Reagan, Synapse cover entitled: the tuition battle-"bleed for UC"

Synapse: February 16, 1970

Graduate Division

From 47 Years Ago:

Vol. 44, No. 16, Feb. 16, 1970:

A single front-page headline, reading “the tuition battle—bleed for UC,” was starkly superimposed on a full-page photograph of a well-known politician, standing stern-faced at a lectern. The lower left corner of the page read simply, “In this corner … Ronald Reagan, governor of California.”

The brief, unsigned article on the front page sketched out the conflict. “The fight against tuition apparently is nearing an end,” it began. “The Regents of the University are slated to vote on the issue at their February 19th, 20th meeting in San Francisco.” 

California public colleges had long been free for residents, though since the 1920s there had been some fees for students, money somewhat restricted in how it could be used. In 1956, there was an “incidental fee” of $84 per year, equivalent to a bit over $700 today when adjusted for inflation, but increased to $300 ($2,040 today) “registration fee” by 1968.

After Ronald Reagan became governor in 1967, he began to push for the colleges to start charging residents’ tuition; he also called for decreased state funding of public colleges. In the face of this, a spirited resistance emerged from many students and faculty.

As the article explained, “Activities on this campus will center around a Teach-In on Tuition,” at which various speakers, “will present a compendium of views on the effect of tuition on the campus, and the pros and cons of the various tuition proposals.” At the same time, there were buttons for sale to help support efforts against tuition; there was also an attempt underway to raise money using a blood drive.

In the end, the efforts of the anti-tuition movement were largely a victory in name only. Strictly speaking, tuition was not instituted. However, an additional $150 “educational fee” was added, marking a 50 percent increase in the cost for a resident to attend. In the 1980s, tuition by that name began to be charged. In recent years, significant increases in tuition have sparked heated protests on multiple occasions.