Illustration by Joe Lai.
Illustration by Joe Lai.

The University of California’s Office of the President has shelved a potential plan to raise fees for undergraduates of certain majors. The plan, presented Sept. 15 to the UC Regents, intended to charge business and engineering majors an additional $900 starting at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. While regents will vote on two other fee increases for all students at the November Regent’s meeting, they will not take a vote on the differential fee plan.

“The University is not going forward with this fee action item,” Ricardo Vasquez, a UC spokesman, told City on a Hill Press. “The administration will take a further view and have an ongoing conversation to consider this plan’s impact on diversity, access and affordability.”

The fee action item, one of three ideas proposed to close the budget shortfall, was proposed by UC Regents anticipating a larger budget deficit next year than it is currently facing. At the beginning of the 2009-10 fiscal year, the University of California faced a one billion dollar budget gap. After implementing a plan of debt restructuring, faculty salary reduction and student fee increases, that gap will be lowered to $535 million.

According to the University of California Office of the President website, this fee increase would be in recognition of the higher costs associated with these programs.

“These disciplines were under consideration because they usually have higher costs, with expensive lab and equipment and higher paid faculty,” said Vasquez.

Student leaders and University officials showed concern about the idea’s fiscal impact and its effect on diversity at the UC.

Victor Sanchez, a fourth-year from Oakes and the external vice chair of the UCSC Student Union Assembly (SUA), called this plan “a backhanded attempt to tax students.”

“The impact of this plan is more than just the price — it’s the diversity and amount of students who may now be unwilling be in these majors,” Sanchez said.

Kalwis Lo, chair of the UCSC SUA, met with UC President Yudof on Oct. 15 to discuss the fiscal situation on the universities. Lo expressed a view similar to Sanchez’s. He said he was disappointed in the proposed plan for fee hikes and was “definitely satisfied,” that the idea to raise fees for specific majors was taken off the table.

“The SUA brought up this issue a lot and advocated against it for quite a while,” Lo said. “I do not believe that money is the root of the issues here. I simply believe that someone isn’t looking hard enough or willing to go the extra mile to come up with some solutions. If we truly are the best institution in the world, here is the opportunity to astound the world and show how impressive we can be.”

Regents will vote on two other fee proposals at their next meeting, taking place from Nov. 17th to 19th at UCLA. The first proposal is a mid-year tuition hike of $585 for undergraduates, to be implemented spring quarter. The second, to begin in the 2010-11 school year, is a $1,334 tuition increase for undergraduate students — together amounting to a 32 percent rise in current tuition for University of California undergraduates.