University of California panel approves fee hike


The difference between the situation Wednesday and Thursday is like night and day. On Wednesday morning, there were bands of roving protestors going around the campus building confronting police. At one point, a police officer pulled his gun when he was surrounded by protestors.

There were students on one side and regents on another again on Thursday, but the differences of opinions were expressed in a more civil tone. On Wednesday, it was batons and pepper spray from police and threats of more violence from protestors. Today, it was just a disagreement on whether UC students, whose families make more than $120,000 per year, should pay 8 percent more next year.

"These increases hurt all students, but particularly the middle-income families since they do not qualify for financial aid," said student Katherine Hasnain. "These represent the majority of UC students."

"The administration at the UC system is failing to provide, for all Californians, to provide a future that is viable so that we can succeed as a state," said student Sonia Diaz. "I'm here in opposition to the fees."

Assemblyman Paul Fong read a statement from Assembly Speaker John Perez saying, "While I commend the UC for attempting to mitigate the impact of student fees on students by increasing financial aid, I fear that the increase in aid will only lead to long-term debt for working families."

Even those disagreeing with the students know that the fee increases of 32 percent last year and 8 percent now cannot continue.

"We have a long-term structural problem here," said UC Regent Monica Lozano. "And, we have an increasing budget gap of $1 billion this year up to about $4 billion over the next five years."

"A lot of what you're seeing today is driven by the need to reform our pension plan, which is 20-some billion dollars in unfunded liability going way out," said Chancellor Mark Yudof.

That pension reform was mentioned frequently during Wednesday's protests and it is a topic certain to draw attention next month when regents vote on a reform plan. However, it is not certain just what form of attention it will attract.

An indication of just how tough things are, the budget director for UC complimented the regents for getting as much money as they did from the state to keep the increase at only 8 percent.

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