As hundreds gathered in Berkeley today to protest University of California fee hikes, the UC Board of Regents approved a budget plan that will increase student fees by more than 30 percent over the next year.

The full board approved the budget at UCLA today, increasing student fees for undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, said Ricardo Vazquez, spokesman for the UC Office of the President.

Undergraduate student fees will increase by more than $2,500, or 32 percent, by the 2010-11 school year, with some increases taking effect in spring 2010. The budget also seeks an additional $913 million in state funding for the 2010-11 operating budget.

All but one regent voted to approve the budget plan. Student Regent Jesse Bernal cast the lone opposition vote.

UC President Mark Yudof said in a prepared statement, “We’re being forced to impose a user tax on our students and their families. This is a tax necessary because our political leaders have failed to adequately fund public higher education.”

In response to the budget proposal, hundreds of students, union members and supporters gathered for a noon rally at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. When the board’s decision was announced, the crowd booed loudly.

Toni Mendicino, a UC Berkeley secretary and spokeswoman for the Coalition of University Employees, was at the rally. She called the decision “an outrage” and said it will severely impact students.

“Obviously the regents are not interested in learning about how the fee hike is impacting students’ lives. If they were here on campus, they’d talk to people who will now be dropping out of school because they cannot afford to go here anymore,” Mendicino said.
She said the union, which represents UC clerical workers, is “standing with the students that are being hit, just like staff and employees are being furloughed and laid off.”

Members of some Bay Area unions, including the Oakland-based AFSCME Local 3299, traveled down to this week’s board meetings in Los Angeles to protest the proposed budget plan.

Union spokesman Sanjay Garla said “people pretty much expected the result. We know where the regents are at on this thing.”

Garla and other members of the union, which represents 20,000 workers at the 10 UC campuses and five medical centers, will now head back to Northern California.

The protests lasted through the three days of the meetings, which ran from Tuesday to today, and Garla said more actions are planned in the near future at the various UC campuses.

“Everyone saw today as the continuation or beginning of something, not the end of something,” he said.

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