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Spring 2003
The Price of Excellence
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Today, resident undergraduate fees for the UC are $4,408 (including health insurance and other services). Compare that with other systems such as the University of Michigan, $7,960, or the University of Illinois, $6,704. (The average for comparable institutions is $6,590. Private universities, such as Stanford, Yale and Harvard, charge $27,204, $27,130 and $24,630, respectively.) UC fees account for a relatively small proportion of the system’s budget, just slightly more than 11 percent, down from 20 percent in 1949-’50.

Both the University of Michigan (UM) and the University of Virginia (UVA) have adopted innovative policies to increase fees and tuition to enhance their available resources. UM is effectively exercising its constitutional autonomy to determine its fees, and is charging nonresidents at a level that is comparable to that of competing private schools. For resident undergraduates, it has implemented a high fee/high financial aid policy. At Virginia, professional schools capable of raising their own funding have been given the independence to do so.

Michigan’s situation is the most analogous to that of the UC; both California and Michigan have constitutions that award their public universities complete autonomy and independence.

Under Michigan’s constitution, the university has autonomy over anything affecting academic affairs, including tuition and fees. In practice, this means that while the state can decide how much to appropriate to the university, it can neither tell it how to spend those funds nor can it control other sources of revenue. It is a position that UM has vigorously defended in the courts.

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