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Tuition Hyperinflation

UC Berkeley students walk by Sather Tower on the UC Berkeley campus April 17, 2007
UC Berkeley students walk by Sather Tower on the UC Berkeley campus April 17, 2007
UC students to pay 18 percent more; CSU tuition up 26 percent since last year

The University of California is raising tuition -- again.

The UC Board of Regents voted Thursday afternoon to increase tuition by 9.6 percent. The increase takes effect this fall.

With the just-approved increases, UC tuition will rise to $12,192 in the 2011-12 school year, up 18 percent from $10,302 in the 2010-11 school year.

Since 2000, tuition and fees for UC students have more than tripled.

The Regents' vote to increase tuition comes two days after the California State University Board of Trustees approved a 12 percent hike to take effect this fall.

Last month, the state cut $650 million each from the UC and CSU budgets. The universities could lose another $100 million each if the state's revenue is less than anticipated.

The decision this week to raise student fees continued what has become the longest period of steady tuition increases for California’s two public university systems in 50 years.

By sheer dollars alone, UC imposed relatively modest year-to-year tuition increases of $100 to $200 between 1960 and 2003. A similar pattern played out at CSU over the same period.

But that trend shifted in the 2003-04 school year, in part because of deep state budget cuts. That year, UC raised undergraduate tuition for in-state residents from $3,567 a year to $4,984, and CSU hiked student fees from $1,507 a year to $2,046.

Students have been asked to pay more every year since the 2003-04 school year, with the exception of the 2006-07 school year. That year, the state approved about $130 million in additional funding, allowing UC and CSU to rescind impending tuition increases.

“This is the largest and longest sustained sequence of increases in student tuition in 50 years,” said Steve Boilard, director of higher education for the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. “This raises the question, where does it end?”

There are no state guidelines on the amount of tuition students pay or how often UC and CSU can increase tuition. While both university systems have laid out standards for how much they can increase tuition, they generally only apply in years where they receive sufficient funding from the state. University officials argue that hasn’t occurred since the 2007-08 school year, forcing them to impose multiple increases – sometimes within one year.

For example, annual fees at CSU, which imposed three increases since mid-2010, rose 26 percent to $5,472 for 2011-12 school year, up from $4,335 in the 2010-11 school year.

At CSU, undergraduates nearly quadrupled in the past eleven years -- from $1,428 in 2000 to $5,472 in the 2011-12 school year.

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