Why A Tuition Hike At UCLA Is A Good Thing

Students at campuses across the University of California system rioted last week after the Board of Regents voted to increase undergraduate tuition by 32% next year. You can see video of the fee hike protest at UCLA here.

I want to play devil’s advocate and suggest that tuition hikes at UCLA and the other UC campuses is a good thing.

Obviously, the UC schools are desperate for cash since the state put them on a starvation diet.   If the UC schools don’t get more revenue, the class offerings will continue to dwindle, the hiring freeze and layoffs will not stop and the odds of graduating in four years will continue to drop. Being forced to attend college for five or six years is a much greater burden than paying higher fees.

But here’s perhaps the biggest reason why students at the UC schools should stop demonstrating. Higher tuition will make the system fairer. What is overlooked in this crisis is this: A huge chunk of the money raised by the fee hikes will be used to help lower- and middle-income students. Of the $505 million raised, $175 million will be used for increased financial aid.

It’s been rich students who have benefited from years of artificially low tuition at the University of California campuses. Taxpayers have subsidized the education of kids from La Jolla, Newport Beach and Menlo Park, who could afford to pay more. I wrote about this phenomenon in a college blog post entitled, Public University Bargains for Affluent Students:

The protests against annual rises at state institutions has masked a financial inequity issue that many administrators in the higher-ed world talk about among themselves.

Inexpensive flagships (at least in comparison to comparable private institutions) favor the rich. That’s because the tuition doesn’t reflect what it really costs to educate a student. And the subsidy that a millionaire’s kid from Beverly Hills gets to attend UC Berkeley is huge when you consider that his family would likely have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars more each year if he had gone to a private institution. The tuition that students pay at UC Berkeley, by the way, only covers about a quarter of the cost.

I think it’s more equitable to impose a higher tuition and use some of it to beef up financial aid than to help affluent students who have lots of educational choices. For rich students, UCLA and UC Berkeley are still a bargain.

Read More:

When College Tuition is Too Cheap

Public University Bargains for Affluent Students

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  1. It would be nice, before making such sweeping comments as those from Beverly Hills, La Jolla etc. who are millionares have been gaming the UC system to use some method of factually supporting your argument. Simple historical evidence. For example- 90% of tax receipts come from 10% of the population. This is factually true. With this information I can then read your blog and conclude that if the wealthy are paying the tax which subsidizes education cost in effect they are the ones who should get the most benefit. Given it is their money which is being used. When you say taxpayers I know your not referring to the lower and middle class who continue to receive the largest government trasfer of payments. The poor do not pay tax. Why should a population who pays no tax argue taxpayers are subsidizing the rich when the rich shoulder the burden the poor can not? It concerns me when someones opinion is confused with fact. But I guess it’s more equitable for your readers that the rich pay the tax, then pay higher tuition, then be taxed when they higher the employee from the school they subsidized and fund there medial costs. Yes that sounds like the definition of equitable an English King would argue.

  2. Great post! I agree with you in theory but how exactly is this going to be done? You mean that the more expensive tuition money is going to be going to the school’s own scholarship programs for lower-income students?

    1. That’s exactly right. A big chunk of the money from these fee hikes will be reserved for more financial aid for low- and middle-income students. It’s a much more equitable arrangement. Too bad the media hasn’t covered this aspect of it.