“Fees” Or “Tuition” Just Semantics?

So when did "tuition" become a four letter word? When it comes to college in California, the answer is 1960. That's when the state's master plan established that public institutions like the California State University, University of California and community college systems had to offer free tuition for all state residents.  With that decision California became the only state to use the term "fees" instead of "tuition".

Whatever you call it, it costs money to go to college in California. Today a basic UC undergraduate degree costs triple what it did back in 2000.  With fees on the increase and classes being reduced, some are calling for honesty in advertising and asking that the term "tuition" be reinstated. Tuition is defined as "the charge or fee for instruction, as at a private school or a college or university." Did you notice the word "fee" as part of the definition?

But does it really matter what you call it? Consider how it affected those trying to attend college on a GI bill. The Department of Veterans Affairs established that assistance amounts be set at the highest undergraduate tuition charged by public colleges in each state.  Well if the state has "fees" instead of "tuition" guess how much the GI bill would pay?  Nothing.  That very predicament is what led to the discussions about changing the terms.

Jesse Bernal is a UC student regent and co-chairs a system wide study group that wants the term "fees" to be changed for "tuition", reports the LA Times. He suggests it's just being truthful because tuition is exactly what it is. He's not alone either. Marty Block, chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee said he supports the change. "It more accurately reflects where the money is going and its purpose of teaching students at our colleges and universities", he told the Times.

Still there are those who like things the way they are. Victor Sanchez is president of the UC Student Association. He likes the term "fees" because "It would leave some hope of returning to some principles of the master plan". The master plan turns 50 this year and circumstances in the state have changed. 

When it comes to "tuition" instead of "fees", maybe it's time to serve a new master.  


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