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Regents agree to increase UC tuition, despite protests

Despite raucous student protests at UCLA that poured onto the streets of Westwood, the University of California Board of Regents approved a 32 percent fee increase Thursday that will push UC tuition above $10,000 for the first time.

Tuition at the 10 UC campuses will increase by $585 in the spring, then another $1,344 next fall. Along with a $900 registration fee, the hikes will bring annual in-state UC tuition to $10,302, not including campus fees, housing and books.

UC officials said the university is facing a $535 million budget deficit, and the increases are necessary to close the gap.

”... This is our one best shot at preventing this recession from pulling down a great system toward mediocrity,” said UC President Mark Yudof. “In the long term, that would not be good for the students of today or tomorrow. And it would be devastating for California as a whole.”

He said revenue from the increased student fees will allow UC “to restore canceled courses that students may need to graduate on time, along with some vital student services, such as more library hours.’'

The vote came in the face of marathon protests by hundreds of students who descended on the UCLA campus, where the regents held their meeting.

Students chanted and waved signs as they marched throughout the campus and onto the streets of Westwood, sometimes flooding streets as they walked among cars stopped at intersections. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

One student was arrested earlier in the day and cited for allegedly obstructing a police officer.

Board members approved the fee increase virtually without comment in a quiet room that had been cleared of students who disrupted the meeting earlier with chants of “Let us speak.”

“I’m angry. I am appalled at the priorities of the UC system,” UC Santa Barbara student Melissa Chan told the board before the meeting was disrupted.

Fourteen people, including 12 students, were arrested Wednesday when the regents’ Finance Committee was debating the increases. One student was injured and had to be taken to a hospital for treatment.

Early Thursday, a group of students began a sit-in at UCLA’s Campbell Hall, prompting the cancellation of some classes.

“The UC Regents will vote the budget cuts and raise student fees,” the Campbell Hall protesters wrote in an online statement. “The profoundly undemocratic nature of their decision-making process, and their indifference to the plight of those who struggle to afford an education or keep their jobs, can come as no surprise.

“We know the crisis is systemic, and that it reaches beyond the regents, beyond the criminal budget cuts in Sacramento, beyond the economic crisis, to the very foundations of our society. But we also know that the enormity of the problem is just as often an excuse for doing nothing.”

In a statement posted on the school’s Web site, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said: “As you likely know, the UC Regents are meeting on campus in Covel Commons. There were a number of protest demonstrations yesterday and they are continuing today. It’s important for us to honor the right to protest, but we also must maintain an environment of civility, respect and safety on our campus.

“Currently, a number of students are conducting a sit-in in Campbell Hall, and classes there have been canceled. If you do not need to be in the vicinity of Campbell Hall or Covel Commons, please stay away.”

Even after the board took its vote and ended its meeting, students continued marching around the campus and chanting in opposition to the fee hikes.

During Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting, some board members said the fee hikes were inevitable given cuts in state funding.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, told the full board Thursday that she would call for hearings in Sacramento to discuss the financial situation facing the state university system - and education in general. She chastised some of her colleagues for “grandstanding” on the issue while doing little to help raise funds for education.

“The real answer is we need votes,” she said. “We struggle every year for votes to raise revenue.”

The UC Regents will ask the Legislature for a $913 million state funding increase for the next fiscal year - with plans to cut freshman enrollment if the funding is not approved.