Lawmakers eye University of California fees

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Late last month, news that the University of California planned to increase tuition by up to 28 percent over the next five years sparked waves of walkouts and protests throughout the UC system.

At the time, the California Legislature was in recess.

However, when lawmakers returned on December 1 to start the 2015-2016 session, they wasted no time penning legislation addressing the issue.

As of this writing, there are at least four proposals aimed at curbing the fee hikes. All four of them attack the issue from different angles.

Senate Bill 15 takes one approach by taking money from the middle class scholarship program and using that money to cancel the tuition increase. The bill would also establish a Competitive Incentive Grant Award to encourage students to complete a degree in four years or less, and add additional courses to allow students to complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.

This comes after last month’s proposal by Assembly leader Toni Atkins to raise $50 million for the UC system from the state general fund, increase tuition for out-of-state students, curb costs for retirements and executive compensation, and use the middle class scholarship to reduce fees.

Assembly Bill 42 proposes to freeze fees at community colleges, at California State University and in the UC system at 2014-2015 levels through the 2018-2019 fiscal year. This would be funded by the higher tax rates imposed by the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012. The bill also prohibits California State University from approving a student success fee before January 1, 2016. This would be an urgency statute, slated to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Finally, a fourth proposal aims its sights directly at the UC administration. Currently, outside of specified purposes, the Regents of the University of California are not subject to legislative control. State Constitutional Amendment 1 would undo all that: If the bill passes, the university and the regents would be subject to legislative control as of January 1, 2017. A long road is ahead for this bill, however, as it requires two-third approval in both the Senate and the Assembly before being put to voters.

While the UC system has been independent since 1878, the state’s community colleges and California State University are both subject to legislative oversight.

SB 15, AB 42 and SCA-1 are all awaiting assignment to legislative committees.

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