Members of the UC Board of Regents are considering another tuition hike as a way to deal with chronic funding problems driven primarily by steep state budget cuts.
The price to get a higher education within the University of California system could soon be going up...again.
On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents unveiled a proposal that would lock in hikes of 8 to 16 percent each year for the next four years. UC tuition is $12,192 per year; annual increases would take it to anywhere from $16,596 to $22,068 by 2015.
Incoming freshman don't like the idea. Neither do Juniors or Seniors.
"I definitely feel like I've made the most out of my time here, I'd actually would love to work here after I graduate, so I feel like the money I'm putting in I'm probably going to get back," said UCLA senior Lucy Tsing.
Sage Kim is a transfer student. She says she was able to save a little bit by starting at a junior college, but says a tuition hike will still hurt.
"It's awful. It's like, we're already poor as it is, my family is not that rich", said Kim.
Undergrads pay about $12,000 a year to attend classes, after an increase of $1,800 last fall. Under the new proposal, tuition could go up anywhere from $16,000 to $22,000 per year, nearly double. But most would argue, its still worth it. Studies show college grads earn more over their lifetimes, an average of $20,000 a year more.
"It's really economical compared to other universities elsewhere in the world. Knowledge is always worth it", said grad student Sami Malouf.
One major reason behind most of the crisis of UC affordability is well known: a sharp decline in public support. State funding has fallen hard, so students and their parents have taken its place.
That's because the universities have contractual commitments to fund generous health and retirement plans. Relying on a once-bullish market, UC stopped contributing to its retiree health and pension systems 20 years ago. The weak economy, significant market losses and changing demographics led to a deficit, so the university must start making substantial payments.
Second, unlike a private business, UC cannot easily contract. It's faced with an increasing number of students each year.
In addition, much of its budget is tied up in labor costs, protected by union contracts. Colleges are highly labor-intensive -- as much as 70 percent of a budget can be salaries and employee benefits -- so college budgets rise more quickly as health care, pensions and other personnel costs rise beyond inflation.