UC Regents approve a proposal to raise tuition over vocal student protests

On Nov. 19, UC regents voted 7–2 to raise professional school supplemental tuition, over the vocal and visible protests of many UC students who said the tuition raises were unfair and unjustified.

The proposal will raise general tuition 5 percent over the next five years and professional supplemental tuition (PST) 5 percent each year over the next five years. Nursing students in particular were singled out for a one-time 20 percent increase in PST. Professional supplemental tuition (PST) particularly affects programs in which graduates receive a professional license, which encompasses most of the professional programs at UCSF. These increases will go into effect only if the California state government fails to provide additional funds for the UC system.

State legislators and UC President Janet Napolitano are currently discussing proposals. Some have criticized the UC Office of the President for using the tuition increases to leverage more state funding. Napolitano contends that these tuition increases are necessary for the long-term financial health and viability of the university. 

Student protestors argued that tuition increases place an undue financial burden on them, and that the administration is ignoring their concerns. Before the regents met, several hundred students from several UC campuses—including UC Berkely, UC Davis and UCSF—gathered at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to protest. At one point in the rally, students attempted to block the regents from entering the building where their meeting was going to be held chanting “Hey hey, ho, ho, the regents have got to go,” while holding signed declaring, “Education is a right not a privilege,” and “Don’t crush my American Dream!” Kate Mitchell, a first-year student in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner/Midwifery program, and the vice president of external affairs for the Graduate and Professional Students Association said the atmosphere at the rally was tense but nonviolent. Mitchell said she has additional motivation to object to these tuition increases because of the extra tuition increases proposed for nursing students. These increases “unfairly and disproportionately affect nursing students,” she said, because this tuition increase would come on the heels of an 8.5 percent increase last year.

Should these additional increases go into effect, the entering class of 2012 would end up having a total tuition increase of 31.5 percent over the course of obtaining their degree.

“Nursing students are angry,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think we should have to take out additional loans to cover ever increasing fees, and these tuition increases will put an extra financial burden on students that are already struggling with San Francisco’s exorbitant cost of living.” 
The university argues that these tuition fees are necessary since nursing tuition was kept artificially lower at the request of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger to combat the shortage of nurses in California, and that nursing tuition should be more in line with dentistry and pharmacy programs.

While general tuition is the same for all professional programs, in the 2014–2015 school year, supplemental tuition for the School of Nursing is $8,358 compared with $27,576 for the School of Dentistry and $19,638 for the School of Pharmacy, according the UCSF Office of the Registrar.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood said that because the quality of the nursing programs at UCSF are comparable to other elite institutions like Harvard and Yale, their tuitions should also be more comparable. On the other hand, Mitchell said, UCSF policy states that tuition increase over 6 percent should be accompanied by additional scholarships being made available to students.She added that UCSF policy also states tuition increase shouldn’t adversely affect diversity within the school. “I wish that the administration had more accountability to the students. It’s unclear to me that the university is going to comply with their own policies. I don’t think that there’s anyone enforcing these policies either.” Mitchell said she is planning on meeting with David Vlahov, dean of the School of Nursing, to discuss whether or not these tuition increases proposed for nursing students are in compliance with the University’s own policies.

The UC student’s association has a petition going to continue to protest tuition raises at ucsa.org/action-alerts/sign-our-petition.