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California's top public universities may go upscale

University of California seal

Kai Ryssdal: The University of California could be hit with as much as $1 billion in cuts as the state tries to close its gaping budget hole. One idea to help keep the UC system afloat is to let its different campuses charge different rates. At the moment, you pay the same wherever you go. But now maybe the biggies -- like Berkeley and UCLA -- might cost more than, say, UC Merced. A similar idea is being floated in New York -- not without its critics.

From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR, Amy Scott reports.


Amy Scott: A University of California commission rejected the idea of different tuition for different campuses last year. But with the prospect of even more cuts to the system, the idea has resurfaced.

Patrick Callan: The first instinct is always to pass as much of the grief as possible along to parents and families.

Patrick Callan is president of the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education. He questions whether a student's wealth should decide which campus he or she attends. UC is also accepting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition.

Callan: I think that's a fundamental issue of educational policy that we have to decide. Do we want to make our most prestigious campuses less affordable to those who can't afford to pay a premium charge?

The UC system has already raised tuition 8 percent across the board for next year. Nathan Brostrom is executive vice president of business operations at the University of California. He says increases in financial aid have offset a lot of the pain.

Nathan Brostrom: Even while we've had these large tuition increases, the number of low-income students on our campuses has actually grown. A campus like Berkeley or UCLA has more Pell Grant recipients than the entire Ivy League combined.

In states like Wisconsin and Texas, flagship campuses have long charged more than others in the same university. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently came out in support of such a system in his state. But Patrick Callan cautions the whole country has been going backwards on college affordability.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.
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North Carolina did this years ago, letting the flagship schools in the system charge more.

No idea if it has actually been a beneficial change.

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