California University Budget Woes Result in Major Tuition Hikes

Aug 12, 2011

In spite of protests from students, two public university systems in California recently announced the approval of a tuition hike. Though this is unwelcome news for many students in the University of California and California State University systems, the impact may not be as severe as one might think.

By Sarah Wright

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About the Increase

In July 2011, both the University of California and California State University systems announced an increase in tuition for the coming years. Both systems are public institutions, and the increase is a direct result of the trickle-down financial burden caused by the State of California's dismal economic situation.

At University of California (UC) schools, tuition will be raised a total of about 18% after the system's board of regents had to approve two increases to cover costs for the 2011-2012 school year. This brings the total for in-state tuition up to $12,192, a $1,890 jump from the previous school year. At California State University (CSU) schools, in-state tuition will jump to $5,472, a 22% total increase from the previous year. Neither of these totals accounts for room and board, campus fees and other academic costs like books and lab fees.

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Who Will Be Impacted?

These two public university systems are the largest in the nation's most populous state. There are more than 220,000 students enrolled in the University of California system's ten campuses, which include well-known schools like UCLA and UC Berkeley. In the CSU system, there are about 412,000 students and 23 campuses throughout the state. The tuition hike applies to both undergraduate and graduate students, though graduate student funding is still a common option.

Though the tuition is higher, it is still a relative bargain for in-state students in both the UC and CSU systems. Tuition for California residents is still well below $10,000 per year at California State University schools, and while the tuition will be considerably higher at University of California schools, that tuition is still under $20,000. Though more expensive than previous years' tuition, this still constitutes a good price for education, especially when considering the fact that tuition and fees for private colleges can cost upwards of $60,000 per year. Plus, out-of-state students in both systems will be paying significantly more than their in-state counterparts.

Uneven Burden, but Generous Aid

While the tuition hike is sure to impact all students, that impact will be felt unevenly across different socioeconomic classes. It is those in the middle income range that are expected to feel the most strain, since they might not qualify for aid, but also might not necessarily be able to pay for tuition out of pocket. However, the 'middle income' range here seems to be different from the typical 'middle class' definition of about $50,000 annual salary: the cutoff for 100% financial aid coverage is at $80,000 a year. And the tuition raise will be waived for a year for those from families earning more than $120,000 per year. Plus, an estimated one-third of the revenue created by the tuition increase is intended to be put toward financial aid.

If you're upset by tuition hikes at your in-state public school, keep in mind that you could be paying a whole lot more at a private school.

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