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Three-year plan for professional-school fees fixed
Increases for 2008-09 budget year set the stage

| 26 September 2007

The UC regents last week endorsed a three-year (2008-09 through 2010-11) plan of fees for students in professional-degree programs and approved professional-school fee increases for the 2008-09 academic year.

The three-year plan, intended to help schools maintain and enhance the quality of their programs while providing more fee predictability for students, calls for fee increases of 7 percent annually at the majority of UC's professional schools. However, for nine campus programs in the fields of law, business, and pharmacy, the regents endorsed professional-degree fee increases ranging from approximately 10 percent annually to a maximum of 19 percent. Increases in total charges - which include the professional-school fee, mandatory systemwide fees, and campus-based fees - will not exceed 15 percent annually at any school, and will be well below that for most professional-degree programs.

UC's professional schools were disproportionately impacted by budget cuts earlier this decade, which undermined their ability to improve the quality of their programs and to offer competitive salaries to faculty and staff. The schools' financial circumstances remain severely strained, and a sustained effort over time is required for the schools to fully recover.

As a result, the regents at their March meeting adopted the principle that fees for professional-degree students would be approved within the context of a multi-year plan that is subject to annual reconsideration. The proposed fee levels were developed based on campus proposals presented to the regents in July.

The nine programs that recommended professional-degree fees higher than 7 percent share a number of common concerns and objectives. For example, all are determined to enhance the quality of their programs and to continue to offer contemporary and innovative instructional programs that require hiring high-quality faculty and improving their salaries.

Meanwhile, all schools are concerned about preserving access and affordability and have proposed significant increases in their financial-aid programs to mitigate the effects of fee increases on their students.

As part of that commitment, each program will use funding equivalent to at least 33 percent of the revenue from the fee increases to expand their financial-aid programs. All will substantially increase the grant assistance provided to enrolled students, and all law schools will use revenue from the proposed fee increases to provide loan-repayment assistance for students who enter public-interest and public-service employment upon graduation.

Each law school has a Loan Repayment Assistance Plan (LRAP) to ensure that student debt does not preclude students from taking employment in these lower-paying fields. The schools would use revenue from the proposed fee increases to increase significantly their LRAPs in order to expand eligibility to more students and improve the amount of assistance provided. This means that law-school graduates who take jobs in qualified public-interest positions could have a portion or all of their student-loan debt canceled, depending on their salary and length of employment. In addition to the university-run programs, the federal government also has loan-forgiveness programs for graduates who pursue public-service careers in a variety of fields.

For example, at Berkeley, the Boalt Hall School of Law plan includes a return-to-aid of about 35 percent on new professional-degree fee revenue generated in 2008-09. It also will allow the law school to provide an additional $2.8 million for need-based grants. The additional funds will also support its recently expanded LRAP and increase funding from $700,000 in 2007-08 to about $1.5 million by 2010-11.

(By way of comparison, the UC Davis law school plan includes a return-to-aid of about 36 percent on new professional-degree fee revenue generated in 2008-09 to increase grant funding and expand its LRAP program. Grant funding is expected to increase from $2.4 million to $4.2 million by 2010-11. And UCLA's law-school plan includes a return-to-aid of about 38 percent on new professional-degree fee revenue generated in 2008-09 to expand its LRAP program and provide additional grant funding. That program is expected to nearly quadruple to just over $1 million by 2010-11, and grant funding is expected to increase from $5.6 million to $9.0 million during the three-year plan.)

All programs also plan to inform students through their publications and websites how the availability of financial aid impacts the actual net cost that they pay. The three-year professional-degree fee plan also requires the programs to evaluate the impact of the fee increases on student access and inclusion, and to report back to the regents on any changes in the composition of the enrolling student body.