Tuition Hikes Casting Cloud Over Future of Anderson's Affordability

Staff Reporter

If state budget cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger remain intact, students at UCLA's Anderson School of Management will face a likely tuition increase of between 20 percent and 45 percent next year and more steep hikes in future years.

That would put tuition at Anderson, which historically has been one of the least expensive options among first-rate business schools in California, near the cost of more expensive private institutions such as USC's Marshall School of Business and Pepperdine's Graziadio School.

For the current academic year, tuition at Anderson rose to $16,900 from $12,000. Under the current budget proposal, which UC Regents were grappling with last week, tuition at Anderson would rise to at least $22,000.

That would represent a near doubling of tuition in just two years.

Some reports circulating around the Anderson campus last week pegged next year's increase even larger, with the new tuition level topping $25,000.

Basic tuition at smaller private business schools in the area, such as Pepperdine's Graziadio School and Loyola Marymount University's Conrad Hilton School of Business, runs about $27,000 per year.

UCLA would still remain below its biggest competitor in the area, USC's Marshall School, where basic tuition now stands at $32,175. At Stanford Business School, another top-rated school, it's $36,250.

Calls to Anderson School Dean Bruce Willison were not returned last week. Anderson spokesman Philip Little said the school would have no comment until final tuition figures came in from the statewide UC system.

Shifting cost burden

University of California officials are grappling with a projected $1.6 billion shortfall for the entire UC system, including graduate and undergraduate programs.

Last week, UC officials told the Board of Regents that Schwarzenegger's plan, which would raise fees at UC graduate schools by 40 percent, would not raise as much revenue as originally projected.

The officials urged the regents to raise fees on undergraduates by 15 percent, instead of the 10 percent proposed by Schwarzenegger, which would allow fees at UC graduate schools to be raised by the same amount.

Under Schwarzenegger's January budget proposal, professional schools in the UC system, including the Anderson School, would take a 25 percent cut in state funding from the current $168 million. To make up for the cut, UC officials were weighing tuition increases of at least $5,000 per year at professional schools, with some schools seeing even larger hikes.

No final decision on the tuition hikes is expected until late spring, after Schwarzenegger releases his revised May budget. His office signaled last week that it would be flexible in finding ways for the UC to distribute the cuts.

In a March 16 letter to students and parents, UC President Robert Dynes said UC officials hoped to reduce the tuition increases in graduate and professional programs in upcoming budget negotiations.

"I know that fee increases are unwelcome news, particularly when fees have already been raised substantially," Dynes said in the letter. "I am working hard to convey to state leaders that public higher education is critical to the future of California to the state's economic growth, to the opportunities for the next generation and to our collective quality of life."

Much will depend on Schwarzenegger's revised budget, which will show how much additional revenue has flowed into the state over and above the projections made last December. If there are substantial additional revenues, UC advocates hope they will be put toward restoring some of the funding cuts.

But with so many other constituencies competing for those same dollars, there's no guarantee that the 25 percent funding cut for professional schools would be scaled back.

Future costs to rise

Whatever the outcome, it seems likely that the substantial gap between tuition at Anderson and the state's leading private business schools will narrow substantially next year.

There is also discussion in Sacramento that in future years the state would gradually scale back its funding of the UC professional schools, forcing them to be more self-supporting.

"I'm very concerned about these large increases for professional school students," said Jodi Anderson, a UCLA doctoral student who also serves as student regent designate on the UC Board of Regents. "Historically, the UC system has done an excellent job in providing access for professional school students. That is now being threatened."

As of last week, concern about the prospect of hefty tuition hikes at the Anderson School had not stirred up protests among students. That's in contrast to the high-profile bus trip and rally to Sacramento staged by community college students last week to protest hikes in their course fees.

Unlike community college students, Anderson School graduate students generally come prepared to take on substantial debt loads to finance their education.

"The biggest impact will probably be in an increase in the number of students who use student loans and in the amount of those loans," said John Pugliese, a second-year student at Anderson.

Pugliese and other students doubted that those now attending Anderson would have to drop out because they couldn't afford potential tuition increases. However, they said those looking to attend business school in future years might be forced to take a more critical look at UCLA.

"As it looks like national salaries for MBA students may be decreasing, prospective students may weigh the value proposition of an education at Anderson more closely because of these tuition increases," Pugliese said.

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