BY SARAH BARAKAT
Choice of major, school location, and a university’s academic status, used to be the most pressing factors that undergraduate and graduate students considered when choosing to pursue higher education.
Today, the excessive cost of rising tuition has increasingly become the prime factor in a student’s choice to pursue, and in some situations, continue on the path of higher education.
In a reactionary response to the state of California’s deficit, the public University of California system has drastically increased its tuition and fees, while cutting back on resources.
At the University of California, Irvine, tuition for an in-state, undergraduate student not living on campus has almost doubled, increasing from $8,275.50 to $14,090.00 since 2007.
To bring in more funds, the UC system has also started to recruit more out of state students, creating a demographic of about 12.3% non-residents in the 2011-2012 incoming freshman class.
The university receives about $20,000 more from out-of-state students than California residents, a sign of the UC system’s call for financial help.
The University of California was established as a public school system with an intention to provide quality education at an almost non-existent cost.
“Access. Affordability. Quality. These characteristics are the hallmarks of the University of California and the foundation of its public service commitment,” writes UC President Mark Yudof in the 2012-2012 Budget For Current Operations report. “Their preservation remains the University’s highest priority.”
But for the first time in the history of the state’s education system, students are paying more for tuition to fund the university than the government.
Students are seeing an increase in tuition along with added fees for university services that were once free.
Starting Winter 2012, students will have to pay an Instructional Technology Course Material Fee of $60 each quarter.
According to the New University, UC Irvine’s official paper, this fee will pay for maintaining current technologies, such as computer labs, and may possibly fund technological improvements around campus such as expanded wireless coverage and power outlets, resources that students did not have to pay for in the past.
Increasing tuition and fee hikes come hand-in-hand with cut backs from university resources.
For example, the Learning Academic Resource Center, which has in the past provided students with tutoring outside of classes to ensure understanding of difficult material, has suffered from a 10.6% permanent budget reduction.
These cuts have resulted in the survival of just seven tutoring programs, all consisting of biology, chemistry and math, leaving students in other fields such as humanities, computer sciences, and social sciences to seek outside tutoring resources or with no extra help at all.
Along with academic resources, extracurricular activities have proved to be of low priority to the University.
Student resource centers such as the Center for Service and Action (CSA), a program that promotes volunteering for community projects in fields of health, education, and the environment, gave students the opportunity to give back to their communities through service trips.
The CSA has suffered from limited funding and staffing, as well as a closed office, limiting outreach and application of education to the community at-large.
Despite the cuts to academic and community resources, the University proves to have funds available for other projects.
A proposed concert by the Associated Students of UCI included a $170,000 budget in order to bring Swedish DJ, Aviici.
The concert was planned to cost between $30 and $40 per person, while other costs would be paid from ASUCI’s emergency funds.
The misappropriation of funds is most apparent in seemingly positive additions to the university. This past fall, UCI handed out free sweatshirts to incoming freshman and transfer students during Welcome Week, which is estimated to have cost the school approximately $200,000.
The Global Viewpoint Lounge, which used to be a study lounge in the Student Center, was transformed into a study center where HD flat screen TVs surround the room, playing news from across the globe.
Although the Global Viewpoint Lounge is an aesthetically pleasing improvement to the study center, students are questioning why the University has appropriated its funds to its establishment while making students pay for the technological maintenance of the study space.
In order to answer the budget problem, the UC Regents have proposed an 81% fee increase said be applied over the next four years.
If the state does not create revenue for education budgeting, this increase will replace the funds.
SARAH BARAKAT is a fourth year Criminology, Law and Society major at the University of California, Irvine