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Paying more for less: Needing to overhaul our UC system

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OCTOBER 05, 2023

Around the 1960s, students throughout the UC system would pay nothing for tuition and some fees. 

Today’s UC Berkeley undergraduate students pay an average of $15,000 for tuition, which barely scratches the surface in terms of expenses. Undergraduates pay almost $2,000 for SHIP, and housing can range anywhere from $750 to more than $2,000 per month. These expenses may total up to more than $30,000 and double for nonresidential students who pay over $70,000 a year. 

So why did the price increase? Have UC students gotten more? Is the amount we are paying right now worth it?

This semester, UC Berkeley admitted about 14,500 first-year undergraduates, which seems desirable. We should have more peers to create a community at the No. 1 public university in the nation. However, a March 2020 report from Berkeley Division of Student Affairs revealed that campus can only support housing for 23% of undergraduate students and even less for graduate students.

A fall 2022 survey by the Basic Needs Center showed that 12% of all students experience inadequate housing while attending schools in the UC system. The same survey showed that 47% of students faced food insecurity. 

Furthermore, with more admitted students and higher tuition, UC Berkeley should presumably increase the number of tenure-track faculty to ensure the size of classes stays at a reasonable level. However, between 1992 and 2022, the tenure-track faculty at UC Berkeley remained constant while the number of undergraduate students has increased by 50%. 

The consequences of this increase can be seen in class sizes that sometimes surpass 800 students. Ideally, UC Berkeley would then account for this lack of tenure-track faculty by increasing the number of graduate TAs, but after the UAW strike in fall 2022, the UC system allegedly decided to reduce the number of graduate students entering the UC system by up to 33%. What this may mean for undergraduates is larger class sizes and less TA assistance. 

In 2023, the UC system reported that enrolled student tuition and fees makes up for 37% of UC system’s budget revenue. However, students don’t make one-third of academic decisions. If students did, we should ask for more tenure-track faculty, smaller class sizes, more housing and more funding for DSP. Students may not need to occupy a library to prevent it from being cut or participate in a TA strike. In my view, our voices as undergraduates have been taken for granted. 

From 2012-17, administrators earned salaries exceeding $174,000, which had nearly doubled from 5,931 to 9,640 employees. In 2017, there were 712 UC administrators who earned more than $190,103, excluding faculty and physicians.

This year, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla received a $500,000 raise, which affects the whole UC system. In 2022, the Board of Regents voted to increase each UC chancellor’s salary from 6% to 28%, ranging anywhere between $522,00 and $640,000. Additionally, Chancellor Carol Christ from 2021 to 2022 received a $97,155 raise. Evidently, a good portion of university revenue goes to the increase in administrators’ salaries. 

I believe administrators pay lip service to our struggles through the alleged retaliation against our TAs for going on strike, inadequate housing and loss of funding for a permanent space for Latine students despite efforts to become a Latine-serving institution. In short, I believe the UC system is not acting in our interests. 

We have seen much resistance to the UC system’s budget cuts. This resistance did not come in the form of begging the Chancellor or the regents for concessions — it was through organization and action. 

When UC Berkeley threatened to close the Anthropology library last semester, students and faculty from the anthropology department occupied the library. Over the course of an 85-day occupation, the organizers managed to pressure the administration to keep the library open while maintaining most of the books. It was students and faculty who supported our TAs on the picket line to ensure a fair contract. These fights were not fought in isolation but in unity. It is completely possible for students to fight for a more democratic university. 

I was told by my parents to keep my head down, go through the institution, get my degree and leave. I was told not to rock the boat of the UC system and be blind to the neglect of students. Being complacent with the UC sytem’s neglect of students and their needs may do nothing but worsen our own conditions and perpetuate the injustice of the UC system. As undergraduate students, we must organize together and hold the university accountable to us.

Oton De Souza is a senior in the sociology honors program and co-chair of CalYDSA. Contact the Opinion Desk at [email protected]

OCTOBER 05, 2023