Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Will the Regents Protect the Middle Class?

When the UC Regents meet this week, they will be asked to endorse a plan to raise tuition 40% next year if the state reduces the UC budget by an additional $500 million, which will occur if tax extensions are not approved. The Office of the President will also present a modified financial aid plan that funds the tuition increases for families making less than $120,000 a year. The idea here is that middle-class Californians will be protected against giant tuition increases because these increases will be offset by additional financial aid, but we must ask how is middle class being defined here.

If a married couple is comprised of two wage earners, and both people make $61,000 a year, this family does not qualify for the UC financial aid plan, but can they really afford tuition at $15,000 and a total cost of over $35,000 including room and board? Not only does California continue to have one of the highest costs of living in the nation, but with the loss of home values and 401ks since 2006, most middle-class families will have a very hard time sending their kids to a UC.

Perhaps most regents do not understand this problem because they are multimillionaires who simply are out of touch with the middle class. Likewise, with the steady increase in salaries of UC administrators, we cannot expect people making over $200,000 a year to understand the plight of middle-class people earning $61,000. With the rising income inequality outside and inside of the UC system, the ability of people to understand the hardships of others is being diminished.

In the case of the UC system, it is the huge growth of managers and their salaries on the campuses, which is a major part of the problem and solution. While the number of employees over the last twenty years has gone up 47%, the number of managers on the campuses has gone up 220%. Moreover, during the last three years of our “budget crisis,” the number of administrators making over $200,000 has grown considerably.

It should be clear that faculty, students, workers, and unions should join together to demand a halt to tuition increases, an increase in state funding, and a push for a major reduction of administrative costs.

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