Across the University of California, the strains of doing more with less are starting to be evident: Class sizes have crept up and student services like tutoring and academic advising are often stretched thin.
A six-year tuition freeze, coupled with rising California student enrollment and state funding that hasn’t fully recovered from recession-era cuts has resulted in a critical need to invest more in core student services and academic excellence, university leaders say.
The UC Board of Regents later this month will consider a plan to fund needed support for students with a $282 annual tuition increase, the first rise in tuition since 2011. They will also consider a $54 student service fee that will improve mental health services. If approved, the increases would take effect in the fall of the 2017-18 academic year, with the new funds directly benefiting students.
Two-thirds of California undergraduates would have the increase fully covered by financial aid, said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein.
“More than half of California undergraduates have all of their tuition and fees completely covered by financial aid,” Klein said. “That will continue to be the case.”
In fact, a third of the tuition increase would go back into supporting need-based financial aid for California undergraduates, boosting the amount of aid available for housing, food, books and transportation, she said. Financial support for graduate students would increase as well.
The rest of the revenue would be used for improvements that will serve all of UC’s roughly 252,000 students.
The new revenue would let campuses lower student-faculty ratios by hiring more faculty; boost resources for academic counseling, tutoring and mental health services; and improve support for graduate students and fund more teaching assistants.
“These are improvements that students themselves say are needed, and which we believe are necessary to ensure timely graduation and a positive student experience,” Klein said.
She noted that even during the recession, when the state cut nearly $1 billion from UC’s budget, the university continued to enroll more California students each year.
Last year, as part of UC’s commitment to enroll an additional 10,000 California students over three years, the university had the largest single-year increase in California resident enrollment than any time since World War II.
With more students than ever attending the university, UC needs to ensure that its educational quality remains high, and that there are sufficient services to help students succeed.
“We’ve reached the point where it is critical that we make these investments in UC’s academic excellence,” Klein said.
How will UC campuses use new tuition revenue?
Increase financial aid
One-third of revenue from undergraduate tuition will be set aside for undergraduate financial aid, increasing the pool of funds available to help students cover their educational costs. Because of this, California students who currently receive need-based grants will have any tuition adjustment completely covered. In fact, most of these students will see their financial aid awards rise by more than the amount of any increase.
Improve student-faculty ratios
Some campuses have seen the student-faculty ratio reach historically high levels. The tuition adjustment would allow campuses to hire new ladder-rank faculty, add course sections and reduce class sizes. Along with improving the academic experience, these efforts could help decrease the time it takes to earn a degree.
Increase academic counseling, tutoring and student mental health services
With more students than ever on UC’s campuses, the support services that help ensure timely graduation and a positive student experience are being stretched too thin. Campuses plan to hire more counselors, advisers, tutors and mental health professionals to meet the need.
Offer more support to graduate students
Campuses will use additional revenue to increase fellowships offered to graduate students, and to restore some support that had been eliminated, including grants for summer programs. The augmented support will enhance UC’s ability to attract top-tier graduate students and ensure there are sufficient teaching assistants for undergraduates.
Improve classroom space
Campuses will undertake much-needed maintenance of classrooms and other academic facilities to prevent further deterioration and extend their useful life.