The following was written by and posted with permission from Ingrid Lagos, a grad student in Cultural Studies at UCD.
When university administrators talk about a hike in fees, some mention inflation, and try to normalize the increase by noting that fee increases have happened every couple of years since the institution can remember. While increases due to inflation for just about any product is reasonable, the kind of fee increases for UC fees in the last decade reflect a profound change in what affordable higher education means.
I was an undergraduate in 1988 at UCLA, followed by my brother 4 years later; my little brother was technically “priced out” out of Cal only 8 years after, when the university declared him out-of-state student because my parents had left the country (he had stayed in California). I graduated with virtually no loans, my brother graduated with 20K in loans, and the little one didn’t make it.
There are many ways to talk about what it means for a university to be public—one key aspect is affordability to the average taxpayer as part of the intrinsic responsibility written at the moment the state collects taxes. What does affordability mean? I did some numbers looking at my own reg fees:
In 1988 the total undergraduate resident university fees for UCLA printed in the catalog (88-89) were $1,491 per year. California’s household median income was $30,287. Fees represented 5% of the median income. In other words, a household would have to save 5% of its entire income to pay for one kid’s UC fees, this does not count room and board, books, etc. Not really affordable if you ask me, but perhaps doable.
In 2008 the total undergraduate resident fees for UCD printed in the catalog (08-09) were $9,496.60. California’s household median income was $57,014. Fees represented 17% of the median income. Which mathematically means that no median income household could possibly send their kids to college.
In 2010 the total undergraduate resident fees for UCs have been approved to be 12,323.95 (10,404.95 + 585 in Jan + 1,334 next year) for 2010-2011. I do not know what the projected median household income will be (not published by census yet), but say it’s $63,000. Then fees would represent 20% of household income. This means UC fees are absolutely unaffordable for most households in California.
Affordability is only ONE aspect of public higher education. Let’s not buy into a philanthropic solution, in which fees of average Californians are taken care of by private donors; public also means the ability to research without strings attached to private corporation’s interests. Let’s say no to the hike in fees and no to the private funding solution to make it affordable.
Ingrid Lagos, grad student in Cultural Studies.
UCLA 1988 Catalog
For definition of “median household income”