Responding to a plea by UC Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School Dean Chris Edley Jr. that “if we don’t get these fees, we will be out of money,” University of California Regents this week approved increases up to 7 percent in professional school fees beginning in the second half of the 2005-06 school year.
The increases are scheduled to begin in the winter quarter.
The 12-6 vote took place Thursday in San Francisco. The increase affects 31 law, business, medical, and other professional schools throughout the university system.
The increase is in addition to the 3 percent professional school fee increase approved by regents last November, bringing the total increase up to 10 percent from last year to this.
In his Executive Summary recommending the increases, UC President Robert Dynes said that professional school faculty salaries have fallen an average 10 percent behind comparable institutions, and “the professional schools have been unable to make the financial investments necessary to maintain the academic quality of their programs.”
Regents rejected the argument of several of their colleagues that the increase should be delayed until the board’s November meeting, when a discussion on a long-term professional fee schedule is scheduled.
Even with the increases, UC’s professional fees compare favorably with fees at other institutions in the nation. Average base fee levels for state residents for UC law schools will be $21,863 in 2005-06, $373 more than the average resident fees for all public law schools. Law school fees at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale range between $35,000 and $37,000 per year.
But in announcing her decision not to vote for the increase, Regent Monica Lozano, a Gray Davis appointee from Los Angeles, said, “I believe fees need to be increased, but it should be predictable and moderate. Rather than take incremental steps, we should wait for a few months to come back with a long term plan.”
And Regent Norman Pattiz, a Davis appointee from Culver City, called the decision “shortsighted” and “a tremendous mistake.”
Using UC Berkeley’s law school as an example, he said, “Boalt Law School should get the money they need, but we shouldn’t make it more difficult to go to Boalt.”
But school officials argument vehemently for the increase, saying that state budget cuts over the past decade have eroded the system’s professional school standings.
“We are seeing an alarming deterioration of quality as perceived by people considering coming to our professional schools,” Dynes said.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau asked, “Do we want to have a second-rate law school with low fees? I didn’t come to Berkeley to preside over a second-rate program. It would be a betrayal of the University of California not to provide us with the budget to continue to be a world-class institution.”
And UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale added, “People used to come to the university’s professional schools because we were of comparable quality with other schools in the nation, but we were less expensive. If we continue to be less expensive but are not as comparable in quality, that will lead prospective students to make a different calculation.”
Some regents appeared to be swayed by the argument that at least 25 percent of the fee increase would be dedicated to financial aid for low income students.
Regent Gerald Parsky, a Pete Wilson appointee from Los Angeles and a supporter of the increases, pointed out that unlike in past years, when professional fee increases only made up for cuts in state funds, the money generated by Thursday’s action would all actually add to the professional schools’ budgets.
In addition to the 10 percent professional fees approved by regents for the 2005-06 year, regents also approved, on a 10-8 vote, a “temporary” two year fee increase—$770 in the first year and $1,050 in the second. University officials said that extra increase was necessary after a Superior Court Judge in San Francisco granted an injunction to plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed by students in 2003.
In that lawsuit, the professional students—all of whom had enrolled in 2002 or before—alleged that professional fee increases approved by regents for the spring of 2003 and beyond violated a contract between the university and the students that professional fees would not be increased while they were enrolled.
The court’s injunction prevented the university from collecting the additional fees, a decision the university says has cost them $22.5 million over the past two years. A final decision is expected by the court sometime later this year.
A second, similar lawsuit was filed last week in Superior Court in San Francisco by UC professional school students enrolled in 2003. That lawsuit has yet to be answered by university attorneys.