University of Calif. headed to 32 percent fee hike

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 5:11 PM

Financially hobbled University of California moved Wednesday to boost student fees by $2,500 over two years as students staged raucous demonstrations across the state against the higher costs.

Fourteen protesters were arrested at a University of California, Los Angeles, meeting where a Board of Regents committee endorsed a plan that will boost undergraduate fees, the equivalent of tuition, by 32 percent in two stages by 2010. The full board is expected to approve the fee increases Thursday.

At the University of California, Berkeley, more than 1,000 demonstrators condemned the fee boost and high salaries for university administrators. Protesters carried mock gravestones to represent programs that have suffered under state budget cuts and waved signs reading "Save our university."

After a series of deep cuts, and with state government facing a nearly $21 billion budget gap over the next year and a half, Board of Regents members said there was no option to higher fees in light of withering government dollars. University of California President Mark Yudof has said the 10-campus system needs a $913 million increase in state funding next year, in addition to higher student fees.

More than two-thirds of the request would restore previous cuts. He did not rule out even higher student fees if Sacramento can't find the money.

"When you have no choice, you have no choice," Yudof told reporters after the committee vote. "I'm sorry."

Board members pointed out that lower-income families would be shielded from the jump, and financial aid would help others defray the higher cost.

The Los Angeles meeting was repeatedly interrupted by outbursts from students and union members, who accused the board of turning its back on the next generation.

"We are bailing out the banks, we are bailing out Wall Street. Where is the bailout for public education?" asked UCLA graduate student Sonja Diaz.

Armed officers arrested 14 protesters after they refused to leave the meeting room. As officers approached them, the protesters locked arms and sang the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome." Others shouted "Shame on you." Some cursed.

UCLA police spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein said a crowd as large as 500 outside the building tossed sticks, food and rags soaked in vinegar at police. A group that rushed the doors was turned back by police. Several police and two students suffered minor injuries.

___

Associated Press Writer Marcus Wohlsen in Berkeley, Calif., contributed to this report