No Money Down!

With public university administrators continually arguing for tuition increases to counter state appropriations cuts, it seems far-fetched that their budget problems could be solved by eliminating student tuition and fees altogether.

But that’s the idea put forth by a group of students from the University of California at Riverside, who in January proposed a new funding model for the University of California system that seeks to solve two of the system’s biggest problems: unpredictable and large decreases in state appropriations, and the steady increase in tuition costs.

Under the students’ plan, called the UC Student Investment Proposal, students in the system would pay no upfront costs for their education but would agree to pay 5 percent of their income to the system for 20 years after graduating and entering the workforce.

“Rather than dealing with short-term issues, we wanted to develop a long-term fix for the system,” said Chris LoCascio, a junior at UC-Riverside and president of the group, Fix UC, that came up with the proposal. “Right now UC is living paycheck to paycheck with an unreliable donor.”

This might sound like a well-intentioned idea that isn't going to excite anyone but a few activists. And it's true that the proposal faces logistical and political barriers. But system President Mark Yudof, who in the past has defended large tuition increases, commissioned two of his top lieutenants – Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president for business operations, and Patrick Lenz, vice president of budget – to meet with the students behind the proposal and evaluate its viability. "We think the ideas are constructive," Yudof said at the Board of Regents meeting Jan. 18.

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