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University of California regents OK sharp increases in professional school fees

DAVIS Calif.

University of California leaders raised prices for professional schools Thursday, rejecting arguments that the increases close the door on poor students.

The increases, under which some campuses will be charging more than lesser-known branches, were a departure from the tradition of having more-or-less uniform fees by discipline across the 10-campus system.

Voting 13-5, the board approved fee hikes for the upcoming school year and endorsed increases for the following two years, although those hikes will require formal approval on a yearly basis.

Several professional schools asked for increases of 7 percent, which is in line with previous years, but some are asking for more.

Total fees at UC Berkeley’s law school will go to $31,000 in 2008-09, compared to $27,000 now. Under the endorsed schedule, the total could go as high as $41,000 by 2010-11, compared to $35,000 proposed by the law school at UC Davis. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s business school could charge $41,000 by 2010-11 compared to $31,000 at UC San Diego.

Supporters of the increases say the extra money is needed to maintain quality following deep cuts in state funding.

“We are at a crossroads,” said Regent Judith Hopkinson.

School officials noted the increases would be accompanied by increased financial aid and law schools would have loan forgiveness programs to encourage students to take up lower-paying public service jobs. Along with the fee hikes, regents passed an amendment that among other things requires that school officials justify fee increases and look carefully at financial aid and loan forgiveness options.

But opponents said those measures weren’t enough to mitigate raising fees that high.

“We ought not try and address quality concerns on the backs of students,” said Regent Eddie Island.

The fee vote followed a budget presentation indicating that a projected state deficit was likely to cast a cloud over UC finances for 2008-09, meaning the systemwide fee paid by all students could go up 7 percent. (The total fees projected for professional schools assumes that increase.)

In other business, the board took up a long-postponed proposal to ban tobacco funding. The ban had been opposed by faculty on the grounds that it is interfering with researchers’ academic rights to stop them from taking funds based solely on objections to the giver.

On Thursday, regents were presented with a compromise that stopped short of a system ban but allowed individual academic units to ask the regents for permission to ban the funds if faculty voted in favor. However, that was also criticized as an infringement of academic freedom and the final item as approved essentially strengthens review and reporting requirements for accepting tobacco money.

Another hot button issue before regents was setting the salary for legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who was reappointed dean of UC Irvine’s new law school this week after a series of events that saw him appointed and then dropped by the campus chancellor.

That item, handled swiftly in closed session, raised no public debate. Salary was approved at $350,000 a year.

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–Associated Press

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