SAN FRANCISCO – A University of California committee voted Wednesday to freeze undergraduate tuition this fall and endorse Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, but UC officials said students could face a steep midyear fee hike if voters reject the November ballot measure.
The resolution was approved by the finance committee of the UC Board of Regents, which is meeting in San Francisco. The full board is expected to vote on the measure Wednesday afternoon.
Under the recently adopted state budget, funding for the 10-campus system will remain stable this fiscal year and increase by $125 million next year if UC doesn’t raise tuition and voters approve Brown’s plan to temporarily raise income and sales taxes.
But if the initiative fails, the university would face a midyear budget cut of $250 million and wouldn’t get the additional $125 million next year, leaving a $375 million budget shortfall.
UC officials warned the university would then need to consider a range of unpopular actions, including cutting academic programs, increasing class sizes and raising tuition by as much as 20 percent in January.
“It’s going to be a financial calamity if this measure doesn’t pass,” said UC President Mark Yudof. “We’re all very, very worried.”
Several dozen students and workers dressed as zombies briefly disrupted the meeting Wednesday morning when they started chanting, standing on chairs and dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” before police cleared the room.
The demonstrators said they were protesting the “death of public higher education” and skyrocketing tuition, which has nearly doubled in the past five years.
“The regents have sentenced us to debt with these huge tuition increases, and students are coming back from that debt as zombies to say we’ve got to roll the tuition hikes back,” said Charlie Eaton, a UC Berkeley graduate student who helped organize the demonstration.
While the university plans to freeze undergraduate tuition this fall, the board is expected to vote Wednesday on raising fees for graduate students in 50 professional degree programs across the system. Those fee increases range from 3 percent to 35 percent.