16 March 2010

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

The University of California was ordered to pay back $38 million in fees that were improperly charged to almost three thousand students at professional schools in LA, Berkeley, and elsewhere. Apparently the University admitted the students in 2003 with a commitment that they would be grandfathered into the fee schedule at the time of admission, only later to renege on that commitment and raise their fees by thousands of dollars midway through their degrees. The University has already lost similar suits, and in response the Regents have approved short-term fee increases at such professional schools to pay for the cost of the rulings. According to the  SF Chronicle, UC counsel Christopher Patti indicated that that might happen again if this latest ruling is not reversed in appeal.

In the meantime, as if almost on cue, at their next meeting in San Francisco this coming March 23-25 the Regents will consider a policy change that would allow professional schools to set their fees at levels comparable to similar schools at private universities. Currently professional schools are not allowed to raise fees above comparable public universities. The proposed policy change would just delete the word "public" from current policy.

The University of course has long considered students as a potential source of additional revenue rather than the constituency they are constitutionally mandated to serve (witness the 32% fee increase approved in November). What is particularly disturbing in this case is the insouciance with which UC proceeds to renege on firm commitments.

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