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UC board endorses tax initiative, freezes tuition

University of California endorses governor's tax initiative, freezes undergraduate tuition

University of California President Mark Yudof gestures during a news conference at a UC Regents meeting in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 18, 2012, after a UC regent committee voted to freeze undergraduate tuition this fall and endorse Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The University of California board voted Wednesday to freeze undergraduate tuition this fall and endorse Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, calling it the best option for preventing damaging cuts at the 10-campus system.

However, UC officials warned that if voters reject the November ballot measure, the university will need to consider cutting academic programs, increasing class sizes, laying off staff and raising tuition by as much as 20 percent, or roughly $2,400, in January.

"It's going to be a financial calamity if this measure doesn't pass," UC President Mark Yudof said at the meeting at the UC San Francisco-Mission Bay campus. "We're all very, very worried."

The resolution to hold undergraduate tuition at 2011-2012 levels and support Brown's tax measure was approved by the full Board of Regents after its finance committee voted for it earlier in the day.

Wednesday's action means that for the first time in years, UC will not be raising undergraduate tuition. California residents will pay $12,191, which doesn't include room, board, books or campus fees.

The board did vote to raise fees for graduate students in 50 professional degree programs such as law, business and nursing across the UC system. Professional degree fees will increase as much as 35 percent for some students.

"Many of those students can't afford to repay the huge debt those tuition increases will give them," said Charlie Eaton, a UC Berkeley graduate student and union organizer.

Under the recently adopted state budget, funding for the 10-campus system increases $89 million this fiscal year and another $125 million next year — if UC doesn't raise tuition and voters approve the tax initiative, known as Proposition 30.

If it passes, the ballot measure is expected to raise about $8.5 billion in state revenue by temporarily increasing the state sales tax by a quarter cent and raising the personal income tax on people earning $250,000 or more.

If the initiative fails, the university would face a midyear "trigger" cut of $250 million and wouldn't get the additional $125 million next year, leaving a $375 million budget shortfall. That would lower state funding of UC to $2.1 billion, compared with $3.3 billion in 2007-2008.

After the resolution passed, the governor stopped by the meeting and thanked the regents for supporting his initiative, saying it would restore financial stability to the state and UC system.

On Wednesday morning, a few dozen students and workers dressed as zombies briefly disrupted the regents meeting when they started chanting, standing on chairs and dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" before police cleared the room.

The demonstrators said they were protesting the death of public higher education and soaring tuition, which has nearly doubled in the past five years.

"The regents have sentenced us to debt with these huge tuition increases, and students are coming back from that debt as zombies to say we've got to roll the tuition hikes back," said Eaton, who helped organize the demonstration.

In response, board Chairwoman Sherry Lansing said: "What I wanted to say to the students who were there was, I share your frustrations. I share your concerns. So mobilize and get out the vote."