Monday, October 26, 2009

CALIFORNIA STUDENTS SQUEEZED OUT OF COLLEGE: Even with new program, college is a less attainable goal for some.

EDITORIAL in the Fresno Bee

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009 -- It's a difficult time for higher education in California because of the state budget crisis, which has meant more fee increases for students and pay cuts for professors and staff. That still hasn't closed the budget gap at California's public universities and they've had to limit admissions and reduce the number of classes they offer.

Students have a legitimate gripe when they complain they pay more for their educations and get less from the universities.

At the University of California, officials are trying to make it less expensive for some families to send their children to one of its 10 campuses, even while the system is preparing for more fee increases.

It's a juggling act that UC President Mark Yudof <<photo left, Skyler Reid/DailyCalifornian<< has learned to perform during his short tenure leading the system. On Friday, Yudof was in Fresno announcing a program in which students with family incomes of $70,000 or less would pay no fees to attend a UC campus. Next month, he'll be recommending to the Board of Regents a 32% increase in student fees for next year.

Under the Yudof plan, many students will not pay any fees at all while others will pay ever-increasing fees to fund a university system that is getting less money from the state. While we oppose the size and frequency of the student fee increases, we understand Yudof's challenge to maintain the quality of the system with fewer state resources.

Over the past 19 years, state support of the University of California has decreased 51%. Much of the funding shortfall has been made up with student fee increases, and we believe that is unfairly hitting the middle class. Students from poorer families get financial aid and students from wealthier families can afford the more expensive UC education.

But Yudof told The Bee's editorial board that his plan will not limit the number of middle-class students from attending a UC campus. He said the system is in the "opportunity business" and that is one of the reasons for his appearance Friday at Sunnyside High School.

He told the students if they can earn the grades to get into a UC campus, they will get help in paying for their educations. That is an important message for the San Joaquin Valley, which has many families living in poverty. Their economic circumstances should not limit them from getting a college education.

We support Yudof's opportunity plan, but believe that he and the regents should rethink the size of the student fee increase being proposed.

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