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Spring 1997 | | |
Memories of Powell
What Price Glory?

University Communications

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What Price Glory?
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By virtue of their elective positions, both Reagan and Unruh were members of the UC Board of Regents, and they faced off at a heated regents meeting in the UCLA faculty center on Aug. 31, 1967. Some regents, particularly oilman Ed Pauley, pleaded with Reagan that day not to bring up the tuition issue. Pauley did not want to go back on California's promise, nor did he wish to see the governor embarrassed. But Reagan rebuffed him, replying, "I for one have no intention of discussing anything but tuition."

Arguments on both sides were heard and the regents voted 14-7 against Reagan's tuition proposal. Then they broke for lunch. When they returned, Reagan was all smiles. During the break, a deal was brokered that has held firm to this day: The regents agreed to accept a "charge" on students so long as it was not called "tuition." The letter of the Master Plan's guarantee of tuition-free higher education was preserved, even as its spirit was made a mockery.

By the early 1970s, the regents had imposed more than $600 in charges a year; fees mounted steadily through the 1970s and '80s. Students and their parents grumbled, but the increases were relatively modest and consistent through the gubernatorial terms of Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican George Deukmejian.

But in the early 1990s, as the California economy slid into its worst downturn since the Great Depression, the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Governor Pete Wilson increasingly saw student fees as the way to keep the state's higher education systems afloat. The debate in Sacramento was not about whether to raise fees, but by how much. In 1980 UC student fees were $1,634 a year. Fifteen years later, they had nearly tripled. And other segments of public higher education in California were hit even harder: Community college fees tripled in just 10 years.

As fees climbed, enrollments plummeted. Estimates are that 200,000 students disappeared from California's college and university campuses in the early 1990s. The devastation suffered by the CSU system could be seen a few miles away from the state capitol as CSU Sacramento closed two of its four dorms.

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2005 The Regents of the University of California