UC undergraduate whiners

Nov 24 2009 Published by under Education

The University of California undergraduates have been protesting and complaining and generally whinging about the recent decision of the UC Regents to up their fees by 32%, making tuition and fees about $10,000 per year. The national average is about $7,000 but that source has no range info.
Well, I was around one of the UC campuses during a rather long-distant prior episode of this sort of thing. The students were unjustifiable whiners then and they still are now.


Data from 2004 or from 2007 shows the position of California 4-yr university fees and tuition relative to other states. A recent Opinion bit from 2003 points out:

U.C. Berkeley offers more courses taught by more Nobel Laureates than Yale. Yet Yale charges $28,400 per year in tuition and fees, while Berkeley charges $5858.

Three UC campuses made it into a list of top University/College bargains for 2009.
The reason for this is obvious and frankly I'm surprised that there weren't another 2-3 UCs making this list. Probably they would have if it didn't look too bad. The UCs are fantastic Universities and for that class of undergraduate education (I'm a small college fan, myself) you really can't do much better. So if the costs are *below* those of other inferior state Universities...well, the California students don't really have much call to complain, do they? At worst the recent fee increases brings them closer to market value, but they are hardly getting rooked.
And let me point out another thing. The ire has all been directed at the evil Regents who have made this steep uptick in fees. Wrong direction.
How many of you students have spent years lobbying and voting for higher taxes in support of higher ed? How many have been browbeating their parents and neighbors and family members to vote for more taxes for education in the state? How many of these whiners have or will put on vigorous efforts (or hell, just vote) to restore a semblance of a rational funding situation in California.
You, my undergraduate friends, are in the situation you are in because of the taxpayers of the state of California. They don't want to pay for anything. They've abandoned the great principles of progress and investment that brought about the Golden State's Golden Years. Now we (oh yes, I've been a taxpayer in the State for years) are once again the Nation's bell-whether, leading the way on selfishness and shortsightedness. Leading the way on dissolution of the great social compact. Leading the way on assing up all that was once great about our society. So if you wish to make a difference, stop chanting those stupid protest rhymes. Do something real and serious to address the actual problem here. Get out there and fight for the notion that it is actually a good thing to pay taxes to invest in our common well being. Help Gen X to pull us back from the brink we've been pushed to by those damn Boomers.

33 responses so far

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    As I recall, higher education in California used to be tuition free. When I was a student at the University of Texas, there was 100% increase in tuition. We only griped a little. You want the numbers--from $25 per semester to $50 per semester.

  • Anthony says:

    For clarity, California has two state university systems, the University of California system and the California State University system. The CSU system was the one with only nominal fees.

  • SUNY Student says:

    I agree with labeling the UC students as whiners- at least their tuition is going towards their budget and NOT to fix the other state debts!
    Our tuition was raised ~$600, we're only getting a fraction toward our universities. The irony? We as a student body collectively AGREED to the hike to save our programs. It's a slap in the face. We're the ones who should be rioting!
    Hell, at leas my tuition is still

  • UC Prof says:

    Even with the tuition increase, the UC system is still a good bargain - roughly $12,300 per year for in-state. Many lesser state universities in the US cost just as much if not more.
    The anger is misplaced here - the ones who are really screwing UC faculty, staff, students is the legislature and taxpayers. Select highly paid administrative salaries is only a drop in the bucket of annual operating expenses.

  • Alex says:

    I teach in the other public university system, and I got my Ph.D. from the UC system. I actually have a bit of sympathy for UC students. When I was a Ph.D. student, even in comparatively good budget years it was hard for the UC students to get classes needed for graduation, let alone electives. If they're going to pay so much money (compared to their peers in the CSU), they should at least get the classes they need to get out the door.
    On a practical level, I don't see any way to save the UC and CSU systems without raising tuitions, but I do have a bit of sympathy for the undergraduates.

  • becca says:

    Hot n smelly, DM.
    Would you say to a chemo patient who was receiving therapy that suddenly increased 33% (say from 150,000 to 200,000) and who's last financial assets were wiped out as a result, and who *couldn't even declare bankruptcy*, that she should quit whining because there are cancer treatments that cost much more and this was just bringing it closer to market value?
    Have you thought about the fact that many of the undergraduates COULDN'T vote at the time many of the decisions that caused this increase were made?
    How exactly would you recommend getting out there and doing "something real" and why should we take your word for it if your generation of students failed to change anything?
    Most importantly, DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT REFORMING A SYSTEM WHERE $10,300/YEAR IS CHEAP?

  • Katharine says:

    DM, HOW long ago were you an undergrad? (also, what becca said.)
    It's the idiot taxpayers, many of whom are uneducated rubes, who are at fault.
    Also maybe the price of oil and other shit about the economy.

  • lost academic says:

    DM, I can't agree. Perhaps there's an element of whining, but all of a sudden these students have to come up with a few extra thousand starting not next year, but THIS coming term. Students and their families spend time saving and budgeting and calculating for this substantial cost, which lasts 4 years or more. For these students, it came out of nowhere, and they are the ones stuck with the bill, having never been able to vote to fix the problem. Sure, the education is a 'bargain' - but if you don't have that much money, it doesn't matter.
    For the record, I've supported every tax increase and school bond for my public schools in my home state from childhood on, even back when I didn't know where my family was going to get gas or milk money, or pay the rent.

  • Peggy says:

    Even though I think UC is a good deal tuition-wise, I think it's pretty crappy that they decided to hike the fees in the middle of the school year. Having to come up with an extra $585 to register for the term that starts in January will be a significant hardship for students who are barely scraping their fees together. Yes, they are trying to help students who can't cover the new fees, but some are likely to slip through the cracks.

  • yolio says:

    Apparently, you've never taken a class taught by a nobel laureate, because as a rule, they are crappy teachers. The UC is not Yale, you do not get the liberal arts experience you get the big giganto state school experience. Also, cost of living in California is preposterous. The UC is not supposed to be Yale, etc. The UC has a mandate to serve the people of California. They are currently bailing on their mandate and the people have every right to be pissed. Whining is fully called for, as it pitching a fit, bitching, etc.

  • I facepalmed three times when I heard about the fee hikes.
    First, I sympathized with the current students who are stuck paying a whole lot more for their educations than I did. After all, my parents were able to afford to pay for my college education because they strictly limited my options to UC schools (and their preference was that I attend Berkeley). Price was a key factor in my college selection.
    Secondly, I facepalmed when I remembered that I planned to apply for grad school this year. Uggh. I know they offer stipends for PhD students, but I have a sinking feeling it's not going to cover enough. I'm probably going to burn through my saved wages and have a lower standard of living than I did as an undergrad.
    Lastly, I facepalmed when I realized how the fee hikes are going to screw up my alumni volunteer outreach efforts. In my spare time, I help with scholarships and college fairs. My biggest selling point is that Berkeley offers Ivy-comparabe education for a fraction of the price. Granted, Cal still costs less than Yale, but it's not the bargain it was when I was there.
    It irks me terribly that I pay so much in taxes here, and we're still stuck raising tuition on our public college students. Where the hell is that money going? It's not in the roadways (potholes galore!). It's not in public health (I'm getting paid a pittance as it is). It's not in prison infrastructure (those guys are stacked to the rafters). Seriously. WTF???

  • bikemonkey says:

    Assuming that you mean to be speaking to the actual author becca, yes. Complaints about health care should be directed at the actual source, not just your local hospital.
    Reforming a system where 10K is cheap- neither here nor there becca. I do think public support for higher education needs to be better but I'd hesitate to name a specific target tuition figure. You do grasp that our current higher education system works in part by taxing those who can afford the so-called full tuition to pay for those who cannot, right?
    why should we take your word for it if your generation of students failed to change anything?
    Do the math becca. Gen X was numerically too small to outvote the Boomers all by themselves. When they entered the lower end of the voting age range, Boomers were in the middle and moving towards the end. We are only now getting to the point where postBoomer generations stand a demographic fighting chance against those selfish ass mofos.
    For these students, it came out of nowhere, and they are the ones stuck with the bill, having never been able to vote to fix the problem.
    The vast majority of UC students are getting at least some chip-in from Mommy and Daddy. Demographics are socio-economically above the mean. These are young adults who, in my view, can be expected to have been thinking at least a *little* about politics since they were around 12. High school still has something or other about civics, right? Don't give me this nonsense.
    Anyway, as I said I've seen this cycle occur before. Long enough that generations of college students who complained about tuition in the past have been voting in quite a few cycles. And nothing got better. Plenty of selfish phenotypes in every generation.

  • bikemonkey says:

    It irks me terribly that I pay so much in taxes here, and we're still stuck raising tuition on our public college students.
    What does "so much" mean? 🙂
    Look, tax policy is a complicated beast. Just to take one example, start with Prop 13 and follow all the downstream effects of something that had a positive purpose. Nobody wants to tax old retirees out of the house they already own. But this has seriously distorted property taxes in CA. A distortion that has to be made up somewhere else...
    Trouble with a knee jerk, anti tax, anti public responsibility political climate is that you can't ever fix things that aren't working. The moment you say "tax", everybody wants to vote against that politician. Whether it is good for their situation or not!

  • This is really a reflection of a much larger problem, the general rise in the cost of higher education. This is something that I have very recent experience with, as my spouse started classes this fall to complete his bachelor's degree. Having moved to our current state just this year, he does not qualify for in-state tuition at the state U (which is about $12k/yr). In theory, he would qualify next year, but no guarantees. Out-of-state tuition is double, and only $2k lower than the private college he decided to attend.
    The fee hikes at UC, as others have already pointed out, could royally screw a lot of students, esp. older students who are funding their tuition without parental assistance.

  • bikemonkey says:

    bb, If we're going to look at undergraduate education as a right akin to elem through high school education, fine. But we're going to need a radical re-structuring of our priorities for that. Until then, it's a privilege, not a right. And that means those of socio-economic privilege are....privileged.
    Economy goes south and you pay (relatively) more for gas, you pay more for electricity...and you pay more for education.

  • 13k a year and they are bitching. Welcome to education on the east coast motherfuckers. My tuition in undergrad, a smaller (12,000 student) liberal arts college with a strong school of science, was about that much 5 years ago. If they want to save money, knock out the bullshit pre-reqs at community college like I did so I could take the good stuff at 4 year level. We had no where near the resources and amount of quality teachers that the UC system has so those kids can go choke on a donkey dick (and some of them may do so on film for tuition money) for all I care.

  • qaz says:

    The problem is that the selfish American citizenry now believe that a college education is a private good. The land grant universities were tasked with providing education to the people of the state because educating the state is a public good. Higher education leads to higher productivity and a stronger tax base. Simple observation of where new corporations form and where the high-tech jobs are shows that they cluster around universities. Many studies have shown that universities are engines of production and tax base.
    Much as I think that the university should be cheap (not free, but very cheap), I have to say that I support the UC system for raising tuition immediately, nastily, and horribly enough to get it noticed. What they need to say now (and I don't know if they are) is that they are merely recouping what the state was giving to them. If people believe that the UC system should be cheaper, then the state needs to put more into the UC system, and that means that people have to be willing to pay taxes.
    The Californian system of low-taxes and high-spending was a recipe for disaster that everyone saw coming for years.

  • JasonTD says:

    Everything I remember from my dozen years living in CA about taxes was matched by what I was able to find with a few google searches (I got most of the following data from http://www.taxfoundation.org). State sales tax - highest in the nation at 7.25%. Gasoline tax - $0.399 - only N.Y. is higher. State income taxes - pretty high marginal rates overall, 9.55% now for income over about 47k adjusted, scaling down from there; 10.55% above 1 million - on a per capita basis, CA ranks 6th in personal income taxes collected. Only in property taxes is CA not near the top. In dollar amounts, CA ranks 10th in property taxes per house. But it ranks 37th as a percentage of home value (mostly due to Prop. 13, I suspect, but also because housing is just so damn expensive there). Again though, it goes up to 15th as a percentage of household income.
    I remember other things about California that seemed rather hefty also. I paid over $200 to register a crappy 8-year old Ford Taurus station wagon, and about $350 for my next car which was 3 years old. This was in the mid-90's. I don't know what the infamous 'car tax' is like these days.
    It doesn't look like reality is matching too well with your view that people are avoiding paying taxes in the Golden State, at least when it comes to taxes on individuals.

  • bsci says:

    Bikemonkey is absolutely right that the focus of the blame needs to go to the legislature and the people in the state who have decided that subsidizing higher education is not a worthwhile investment to the state. Still the student protests are more than whining.
    The Regents have some blame in this because their job is to insure that long-term financial viability of UC and for 3 decades they failed to have the guts or vision to see what was happening and speak out to stop it.
    The core of the UC system was that it was worth tax-payer dollars to invest in higher education at a research university. What is "merely" a tuition increase is actually the conclusion that they can ask students to shoulder as much of the tuition burden as they feel like. While $10K a year might price few people out, changing the rules of the game means that tuition will keep going up rapidly and the uniqueness of UC will end.
    Also, as far as education quality, I was an undergrad a private research university and a grad student in UC. There was no comparison of the average undergrad education. At the private school, students got more attention, resources, and support, in and out of class. At UC, students even had to buy their own ScanTron sheets and blue books to bring to exams! (not very expensive, but an example of how the students were literally nickeled & dimed) More importantly, at the private school, anyone who wanted to participate in research could. At UC, professors were able to select only the top students for research and even some very good students were locked out of hands-on research, one of the key reasons to attend a research university.

  • leigh says:

    i think the midyear hike is pretty harsh. but tuition has been going up as long as there has been tuition to pay.
    while i am all about making higher education available to anyone who wants it, i also think you have to work with what you can afford. does CA have 2-year colleges where students can pick up gen ed and prerequisite credits? and if so, how many students are taking advantage of this major cost break?
    while definitely not in CA, the tech college where my spouse earned his degree (while i was in grad school- we cheaped it out pretty hard) was a great bargain and offered transfer to 4-year state colleges. the 2009 tuition rates there were substantially cheaper than even the 2001 rates for my small undergrad state university, which was a pretty damn good deal even then.
    final point- i had an experience quite opposite of bsci's. small undergrad state u offered me a TON of research opportunities. this in no small part got me into a mega private u for grad school. there, i found that only a few undergrads who wanted to do research actually got to try it.

  • expat postdoc says:

    if Amercians would actually pay taxes, this wouldn't be a problem.

  • These students aren't whiners, and it shouldn't matter what tuition rates are in comparable states. It also doesn't matter how "good" UC Berkeley is in comparison to Yale- because the kids at UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside have to pay the same increases. Last time I checked, the Nobel Laureates aren't flocking to Riverside.
    The issue here is that the state of California is in flux. And someone is going to get pinched- right now, it's very much the students, the professors, the administrators, and everyone else involved in the UC system, because the governator, years ago, made the decision to deprioritize the UC education system. The students are not whiners- they are being asked on very short notice to come up with a whole lot of extra change. I wouldn't have had it as a student, and neither do a lot of them.
    These students are exercising their right to complain- so let them. The fucked-up state of California isn't going to reverse it's decision.

  • DSKS says:

    What a thoroughly pompous and self-righteous blog post. Speaking of petulant whining...
    And it's not too classy to appeal to the common fallacious retort of the right wing when criticizing Civil Rights advocates: "Pah, it's not as if your living in China y'know! You've got it easy, so suck it up and love the Patriot Act!"
    One would hope we all reserve the right to demonstrate our grievances without being closed down by non sequiturs (Nobel laureates?).
    If we want to talk about complaining from a position of privilege, that same accusation could be leveled at anyone working in academia, from the postdoc upwards, who sees fit to judge the actions of those relying on salaries drawn from the private sector in this economic climate. Yes, we might have had some pay freezes, but that's small beans compared to what's happening to the people that surely make up the vast majority of the parents of these students; they might not be losing their shirts, but in addition to having their savings and investments eviscerated, they are losing their jobs, and in many cases are neck deep in one of the worst negative equity crises the country has ever seen. And, of course, not being academics, they don't get hefty discounts, and sometimes free, higher ed for their kids.
    Recessions aside, hiking up the price of a product after someone has committed to purchasing it, and is at that point irreversibly invested in it, is generally considered rough play anywhere else in the market, so I don't see why such an act shouldn't be met with antipathy.

  • becca says:

    Sorry about the authorship confusion bikemonkey!
    "You do grasp that our current higher education system works in part by taxing those who can afford the so-called full tuition to pay for those who cannot, right?"
    Yes I do. I also grasp that students come out with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. I grasp that, if your family is unwilling to pay for your college, you are (at best) delayed from starting until you are 24 (or you marry or join the military- which is harder if you are gay). I grasp that if you're a good student, you start at a community college and go to a state school, you get scholarships and grants and work-study, you take on three part time jobs, and you live in a dirt-cheap co-op to save costs, you still come out with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. I grasp that if you have a large family that puts an exceptionally high value on education, and you fortunately end up with a small ECF, you can still have to drop out because of a temporary cash flow issue unless you can find a person (not a bank, as at 19 you typically have no credit rating) who can loan you a couple grand.
    These are the stories of myself and my friends. This is what my generation faces.
    I grasp that, if the system is attempting to make sure smart kids who are willing to work hard can afford college, it is failing. Regardless of where the 'taxes' comes from.
    Savvy?
    My thinking is that the board of regents may be doing a very wise thing, as are the students. Would we be having this conversation if the increase had been more gradual? To the extent "whining" is taking place, it may be an expected outcome designed to take advantage of the squeaky wheel effect.
    Since you have not offered any ideas on how to enact "real" change, I'm forced to conclude perhaps bikemonkey knows less about this than the students or the board of regents.

  • nobody says:

    Whining is not a negative activity. It is one of the few means by which the powerless can attempt to influence the powerful.
    You talk high school civics classes. Great. Do you remember yours? Did they mention, maybe, that the legal voting age in the US is 18. Students who leave high school and go straight to college begin college when they are 17-18 years old. Exactly when would they have had the opportunity to vote for change? They've almost certainly been whining to all their relatives, friends, and neighbors in private. They are whining to the public in, well, public. What's the problem?
    Yale is a private school for rich kids. The UCs have a mandate to serve all students in the state. Are you giving up on the notion that we ought to have public universities at all? The fact that Berkley is a great school doesn't magically give promising students enough money to afford to go to either school. People like to bring up financial aide at this point in the discussion, saying with bravado that everyone who needs aide gets it. But that is hopelessly untrue.

  • bikemonkey says:

    JasonTD: First, California *should* be at the top end of taxation. It is a big and complicated economy and society and it prides (or it used to) itself on being at the forefront of all kinds of progressive stuff. So overall burden at #6 in the nation is no sign of anything. The lower property tax, yes because of prop 13, is a big deal if you look at the relative balance in other states. Even with tweaking (again, the original goal is a good one) there are big gains to be made here.
    In terms of income tax, the comparisons across state are irrelevant. All states and indeed the nation have this undertaxed problem. Particularly for the wealthiest top slices and corporations who dodge even what they are supposed to be paying. What you want to do is look at marginal income tax rates across time. Start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States#History_of_top_rates.5B20.5D
    Which was the US interval of greatest progress, productivity and expansion of the middle class? What was the top tax rate (and don't forget to inflation adjust the income cutoffs)? What is the top rate that could be mentioned in public by a current politician? Is this a surprise to kids in the audience?
    Anyone ever seen a workup like this for state income taxes?

  • Dr. Shrinker says:

    Recessions aside, hiking up the price of a product after someone has committed to purchasing it, and is at that point irreversibly invested in it, is generally considered rough play anywhere else in the market, so I don't see why such an act shouldn't be met with antipathy.
    THIS! I said when I first heard of this that it would be like your landlord deciding, 6 months into your year-long lease, that rent is going up 32%. Unconscionable. And by the way, did anyone else notice in that comparison to Yale that in 2003 the tuition & fees at UC were less than $6000? That's a 100% increase in 6 years!

  • JasonTD says:

    First, California *should* be at the top end of taxation. It is a big and complicated economy and society and it prides (or it used to) itself on being at the forefront of all kinds of progressive stuff.

    If California needs to provide a large amount and a wide range of services, then a high overall tax rate can be justified. At least, it can be justified when the state government is successful at delivering those services efficiently. I don't think people have a high confidence right now that the California government is using the taxes it is already taking efficiently.

    Which was the US interval of greatest progress, productivity and expansion of the middle class? What was the top tax rate (and don't forget to inflation adjust the income cutoffs)?

    Top tax rates only show part of the picture, which is why I mentioned California's per capita income tax ranking in addition to its top rate. I found this interesting analysis done by a blogger about the effective federal tax rate (not marginal) on a family with one dependent since WWII. As you can see, when you add in payroll taxes, the effective federal rate on those with median income has an increasing trend over the last 60 years and is currently higher than during those boom years you mentioned.
    Maybe the solution is to 'soak the rich', so to speak. However, that leads to a large volatility in tax revenues, since the incomes of the wealthy rise and fall dramatically with economic expansions and recessions. Some news articles I've read have basically said that this is a big part of the problem with California's budget woes at the moment.

  • msphd says:

    What becca said. Saying that the cost of education is okay compared to the Ivy League at >$30k/year is just nonsensical. Where the hell is all that money going?? To build research facilities that sit empty because nobody budgeted for hiring faculty to work in these buildings? Does that make sense to you?
    And it's not like Californians don't pay taxes. JasonTD is right.
    What gets me is that the Hollywood types shelled out for Obama when he needed it; if they would shell out for education or public transportation, none of this would be an issue.

  • Anonymous says:

    Your blog sucks!. Gee, established investigators whining about not getting enough incentives for their salaries research. Now, students whining about cost of tuition. You obsessive, delusional harassers don’t get the point. What’s all this fuss on problems of “epidemical proportions”?. Get your facts straight. You make a rare event sound like the problem of the world.
    I plan to send my children to the first medical school at one of the top-notch business universities in the world. Before making a decision on the future of my son attending medical school, I made sure I have all the facts. I am a co-signer on my son’s loan. It is a modest $456 (x100) on “tuition and mandatory fees per year”. That’s reasonable considering all the benefits and perks:
    “Students are charged the full-time rate, shown below, regardless of the number of courses in which they are enrolled”.
    The variety of courses is amazing, so much that I am concerned whether my son is going to be able to make a decision. He doesn’t know what to choose:
    neuroanatomy, neurobiochemistry, neuroethics, neuropublish, neuroelectronic microscope, neuroNIH-trainingmoney, neuromolecular, neuromouse models, neuroleader, neuromuscle biopsy,neuroedit, neuroworldconferencing, neuropathogenia, neuroprogenitocitosis.
    I told him: “Honey, you have to take them all”. This is excellent for the value. And most importantly, you might become one of those medical center leaders getting a 3 million bucks salary (if not double than that). Honey, this is what we are paying for. It’s worth the sacrifice”.
    You whiners, stop whining, get your information on the facts and don’t make a bad decision.

  • Would you say to a chemo patient who was receiving therapy that suddenly increased 33% (say from 150,000 to 200,000) and who's last financial assets were wiped out as a result, and who *couldn't even declare bankruptcy*, that she should quit whining because there are cancer treatments that cost much more and this was just bringing it closer to market value?

    Wow! Was that the world's largest strawman from Becca?? I am SHOCKED!

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Whoosh I am late to this one. I went to UC Berkeley and paid a whopping $673 in registration fees per semester when I was there. My parents hadnt saved crap, and I paid my way by working for UC Parking Services at $7.84 an hour. I ended up debt free with my bachelors degree. That is the way it should be. It's really a shame that the UC system needed to jack it up so far and so fast but they really have no choice but to stick it to the students. It is really the only place the UC system can generate funds to replace those lost from the state.
    Blame this whole thing on the fact that Californians have their idiotic propositions on the ballot. You know what the worst part of democracy is? The worst part is that every asshole over 18 gets to vote. There is no state where this problem is more evident than in California. Propositions for tax reductions at the same time as borrowing for bond issues + wimpy legislature + idiots voting = California Clusterfuck.

  • becca says:

    Isis- It's not a strawman to vividly illustrate the "market knows everything" logical fallacy.
    Just because *item* is expensive everywhere, doesn't justfy it's costs going up in X location.
    Seriously, is the analogy that hard to follow?

Leave a Reply