California students feel betrayed over tuition

California university students learned Wednesday that their brief respite from fee increases may be over.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who last year prevented tuition increases after four straight years of them, proposed a budget that calls for a 10 percent increase for California State University students and a 7 percent increase for most in the University of California system. Students immediately vowed to lobby lawmakers to repeat last year’s reprieve.

“We feel like (Schwarzenegger) ran a campaign as the education governor and now he’s backing out of that,” said Bill Shiebler, president of the University of California Student Association. “We feel betrayed, and we’re going to be there every step of the way like we were last year.”

Although students and lawmakers welcomed last year’s fee freeze, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office judged the move harshly, urging the governor to reverse course and agree to a moderate tuition increase. Instead, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature kept the provision in the final budget.

This year’s budget renewed what has become an annual battle to keep outreach funding, used to prepare K-12 students for college. Schwarzenegger has cut the money from his budget proposal several years in a row only to restore it in the final version after intense lobbying efforts by the universities.

However, Schwarzenegger budgeted $19.1 million to counsel at-risk community-college students and $20 million to beef up UC’s research capabilities.

The governor proposed cutting funding for two UC labor-studies centers, including one at UC Berkeley. The 10-campus UC system fended off such proposals in the two previous budgets.

As for K-12 education, Schwarzenegger proposed spending $66 billion in 2007-08, an increase of 4.4 percent over the prior year to teach the state’s 6.3 million elementary, middle and high school students.

The boost to the budget reflects last year’s truce between the governor and state education leaders, rankled at his previous attempts to cut education dollars.

“We’re really happy not to be in a big fight with him this year,” said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association.

In 2005, the California Education Association and state Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell sued Schwarzenegger for under funding schools as laid out in Proposition 98. Voters approved the legislation to guarantee adequate funding for K-12 education and community colleges.

A legal settlement negotiated last year will provide $2.9 billion to schools and community colleges during the next seven years, with $300 million set aside for 2007-08.