UC students brace for a nearly 16% tuition hike

MERCED, Calif.

Action News spoke to students at UC Merced about tuition increases several times before, but those we spoke with Thursday sound more frustrated than ever before.

This latest proposal has some wondering how they can afford to continue their education.

UC Merced students are paying nearly $13 thousand in tuition this fall, about two thousand more than last year. And some say it's already taking a toll on them and their families.

Gillian Lopez, UC Merced student said, "It's really painful on my parents behalf and my behalf, and I'm working a lot harder this year than ever before."

Sophomore Gillian Lopez doesn't quite qualify for financial aid, so she's worried additional tuition increases will force her to rely even more heavily on loans.

Lopez said, "There's those that are in the middle, which is where I am, people that are working families, but still not enough to support our education, so what do you do then?"

Many other students are already in significant debt.

Keith Ellis, UC Merced student said, "Yeah, I've had to take out loans, and at this point I'm nearly $50 thousand in debt."

Ellis believes the proposal to increase tuition by up to 16 percent for each of the next four years places an unfair burden on students.

Ellis said, "It's really tragic that they're going to keep raising and raising our fees to try to cover the costs the state is no longer footing."

The state has slashed the system's budget by $650 million. And now UC leaders say they're worried about maintaining the quality of their universities.

Jane Lawrence, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs said, "I think the president is hoping by putting out this proposal that he can get into a conversation with the leadership in Sacramento about the long term funding."

Lawrence adds students whose family income is less than $80 thousand already have all their fees covered through financial aid. And more help could be on the way. "There's clearly conversations about whether to raise that amount or other kinds of programs the university could put in place for middle income students and families."

Those in the middle may continue to struggle the most.

The regents won't actually vote on this proposal until at least November. And even if they endorse it, the board will still have to decide each year whether to raise tuition, and by how much.

UC leaders say this is meant to be more of a guideline for the future so the universities and their students know what to expect.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.