Fees charged to all students

The fees discussed on this page are similar in two respects:

  • they are mandatory (i.e. charged to every UC Berkeley student); and
  • they are meant to fund student services and student activities that, being outside the core teaching and research functions of the university, are generally not funded by tuition or state funds.

Within this group of fees, we will address separately:

  • the Student Services Fee (formerly the University Registration Fee), set by the UC Regents for all ten UC campuses; and
  • Campus-based fees, which differ from campus to campus and (with one exception) must be approved by a student referendum;
  • the Health Insurance Fee, which we include here even if it is not mandatory in a strict sense (it can be waived by students with comparable insurance coverage).

Unless stated otherwise, all figures represent annual fee amounts (Fall and Spring semester combined).

Student Services Fee

According to the University of California Student Tuition and Fee Policy, the purpose of the Student Services Fee is to: “support services and programs that directly benefit students and that are complementary to, but not a part of, the core instructional program”. [1] While the level of the fee is fixed by the UC Regents, the allocation of its revenues among different student services is determined by the Chancellor at each campus.

This fee was “University Registration Fee” until 2010 when its name was changed to better reflect the actual use of the fee. At the same time, the Regents adopted more specific guidelines on how revenues from this fee should be spent, how students should be consulted in the process, and how the Student Services Fee allocations should be made public. [2] The new policy also mandates that one third of any increase above the current fee level be set aside for financial aid. [3]

The Student Services Fee is currently set at $900 and, just like Tuition, will increase by 8% in 2011-2012 (to $972). However, recent increases to this fee (22% since 2006-2007, 34% since 1990-1991) were much less drastic than Educational Fee / Tuition increases over the same period. [4] We could even speak of a cut, since the 1990-1991 level of the fee ($673) corresponds to $1,126 in 2010 dollars. [5]

Not only did the Student Services Fee not keep up with inflation since the 1990s, a portion of the fee revenues were diverted to address cuts in state funding. From 2007 to 2010, UC Berkeley diverted 29% of its Student Services / University Registration Fee revenues to offset budget cuts. [6] Due to this transfer of funds, even services that do not benefit from state funding, like the Tang Center, were subject to budget cuts from the central campus. [7] This practice is discouraged but not forbidden by UC Regents guidelines. [8]

For more information on this and other issues related to campus budget allocations, see our page on the UC Berkeley budget process.

Campus-Based Fees

A policy [9] of the UC Regents defines campus-based fees as follows:

Compulsory campus-based student fees are fees levied at individual campuses that must be paid by all registered students to whom the fee applies. Such fees may be used to fund: (1) student-related services and programs, including, but not limited to, referenda-based student health insurance programs; (2) construction and renovation of student buildings and other facilities such as student centers and recreation facilities; and (3) authorized student governments (as defined in Section 61.00 of the Policy on Student Governments), Registered Campus Organizations, and student government- and Registered Campus Organization-related programs, events, and other activities.

In addition, the policy specifies a number of requirements that all campus-based fees should follow, including:

  • any new fee or increase in a fee must be approved by a majority of votes in a student referendum, with a minimum voter turnout of 20%;
  • as an exception to the rule above, Chancellors may create a fee without referendum for health and safety reasons, or if legally obliged;
  • there must be an ongoing consultation with students about the use of the fee (at Berkeley, this is generally done through “fee committees” with a majority of student members);
  • at least 25% of the revenues from new fees or fee increases adopted since 2006 need to be returned as studnet financial aid, with health insurance being exempt from this rule;
  • finally, the policy includes guidelines for the redistribution of funds from student fees, such as the funding of student groups by the ASUC (e.g., this reallocation must be “viewpoint-neutral”).

A policy of the Berkeley campus [10] sets additional requirements for campus-based fees: new fees must expire within 10 years (with the exception of debt service for construction projects), and the return-to-aid fraction for new fees and fee increases is set at 1/3 (above the 25% minimum in the Regents’ policy and identical to the fraction of Tuition returned to aid). These provisions do not retroactively apply to older fees. Also, the reduction or elimination of fees can be approved by the Chancellor without a referendum if the fee is shown not to be necessary (e.g. if a construction project is repaid before the projected term).

Specific rules for student referenda are set by the ASUC Bylaws. [11] However, a referendum concerning the ASUC Fee itself must be overseen by a third-party organization.

Excluding the Student Health Insurance Plan (discussed in the next section), there are currently 11 campus-based fees at Berkeley totalling $637.50 per student per year, compared with 5 fees totalling $157.50 twelve years ago. [12] Here is a list of those fees in chronological order of their creation:

  • The ASUC Fee has been in existence since 1900. It was last increased to $55 a year in 2001-2002 ($11.20 of which is returned to aid, leaving $43.80). Prior to that it was set at $21 for 30 years. [13] The Associated Students of the University of California uses revenue from this fee to for its own operations and to fund campus student organizations. The Graduate Assembly, the organization affiliated to the ASUC and serving graduate and professional students, receives the ASUC fees paid by those students.
  • The $12 Student Center Fee was created in 1955. [14] The operation and maintenance expenses for the student union complex (Eshleman Hall, MLK Jr. Student Union and ASUC Mall) are paid by revenues from this fee as well as commercial operations in those buildings.
  • The $4.50 Ethnic Studies Fee was created by student referendum in 1969, the same year the Department of Ethnic Studies was created following student protests of the Third World Liberation Front. This fee is overseen by the Ethnic Studies Fee Committee. It funds projects sponsored by Ethnic Studies programs through the Ethnic Studies Fifth Account
  • The $57 Intramural Sports Facility Fee was approved in 1981 to fund the construction of the Recreational Sports Facility. [15] It is set to expire around 2015 when the construction debt service is fully paid.
  • The Life Safety Fee was created in 1993 without a referendum, using the “health and safety” exception of the Regents policy. It was set at $63 a year from 1993 until 2005, when the Regents approved a two-step increase of the fee to its current level ($92, with 1/3 or $30.67 returned to financial aid). It will expire at the end of the current year (2010-11) unless renewed by the UC Regents. [16] This fee is overseen by the Life Safety Fee Committee and has been used to fund seismic upgrades to buildings, fire-prevention equipment and other expenses related to campus safety.
  • The $6 Recruitment and Retention Centers Fee, approved in 1999 [17], funds five Recruitment and Retention Centers grouped within bridges.
  • The Campus Healthcare Fee was approved in 2005. According to the referendum text, the fee exclusively funds “student health and counseling programs and services available to all registered Berkeley students, even those who do not enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).” Initially set at $86, it is increased annually by an amount not exceeding the published inflation rate for clinical services. The exact increase is recommended by the Health Fee Advisory Board, a student committee which also recommends priorities for the use of the fee. [18] The fee is now $104 a year and 1/3 of the fee revenues return to financial aid.
  • The Recreational Sports Fee was approved in 2006. At the time, the Recreational Sports Facility (RSF) student membership cost $65 a semester. The 2006 referendum reduced this membership fee to $10 for ten years and expanded RSF operating hours, at the cost of a new $40 a semester ($80 a year) fee paid by every student. By the referendum text, the annual fee was set to increase by $10 every three years, up to $110 in 2015-16, after which it will expire if not renewed. [19] The annual fee is now $90, 1/3 of which is returned to financial aid.
  • The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) was created in 2007 with a fee referendum. The associated fee, initially set at $10 a year, is currently $11 and will increase to $12 from 2013-14 to 2016-17 when it will expire. TGIF awards grants annually to sustainability projects led by students. Like all recent fees, 1/3 of the fee revenues is returned as financial aid. [20]
  • The Lower Sproul Fee, approved in 2010, will fund slightly over half of a $223-million construction project in the Lower Sproul Plaza area, including the demolition and reconstruction of Eshleman Hall (a seismically poor building that currently houses the ASUC and other student organizations) and major additions to the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Building (that houses ASUC commercial activity space and conference rooms). The construction itself is scheduled between 2012 and 2017, although repayment of the debt will extend for about 40 years. The fee is set at $70 a year until 2015 (the scheduled completion of the new Eshleman Hall) and then increases to $300, and then increases in multiple steps up to a maximum of $792 in 2041. [21]

Health Insurance Fee

In 2000, the University of California made health insurance coverage a mandatory condition of enrollment for all students; however, it was already a requirement for all Berkeley students following a 1990 referendum. [22] Unless they already possess comparable coverage, all students must thus enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).

The SHIP premiums are distinct from the Campus Healthcare Fee (see section above). On-campus healthcare services can be used by all students and are partly subsidized by all students through their fees. However, students enrolled in SHIP receive benefits for both on-campus services and off-campus medical and dental care. [23]

Between 1994-95 and 2002-03, SHIP premiums increased by about 30% for both undergraduate (from $390 to $506 a year) and graduate students (from $430 to $556 a year). From 2002-03 to 2010-11, premiums have increased by over 300% for undergraduates (to $1522) and 360% for graduate students (to $2010). [12] At this point, we do not have the data to determine how different causes (e.g. inflation in medical costs, addition of benefits to the plan, increase usage of the plan, etc.) have contributed to this hike in insurance fees, but we are pursuing research on this issue.

1. The University of California Student Tuition and Fee Policy.

2. May 2010 amendment to the University of California Student Fee Policy.

3. In comparison, 1/3 of the full tuition amount is dedicated to financial aid.

4. Historical Fee Levels – 1975 to present from the UC Office of the President website.

5. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.

6. 2010-2011 UC Berkeley Student Services Fee budget. Note that half of the $30.8 million in Student Services Fee revenues is currently directed to Central Campus Operations to pay for the benefits of student services employees and to offset state budget cuts. The other half is split among 33 academic units, the largest recipients being University Health Services ($5.98 million), Intercollegiate Athletics ($1.61 million), the Career Center ($1.50 million) and Campus Life and Leadership ($1.19 million).

7. The University Health Services budget took a 21% cut in 2009-2010 (from $7.4 million to $5.8 million), with a corresponding impact on fees and services for students.

8. Excerpt from the guidelines:

While in general, campuses should not meet their budgetary priorities by shifting additional expenses onto the Student Services Fee, in years of fiscal shortfall, cuts to students services functions, perhaps achieved with funding shifts of programs to the Student Services Fee, may be unavoidable.

9. Policy on compulsory campus-based student fees (last revised March 2007).

10. Guidelines for establishing, increasing, reducing or eliminating campus-based fees (last revised May 2009).

11. ASUC Bylaws, Title IV – Elections.

12. Berkeley Campus-Based Fees: 1994-1995 to 2010-2011.

13. Minutes from the UC Regents Committee on Finance, July 2001.

14. Minutes from the UC Regents, May 2005.

15. 1981 Blue and Gold Yearbook, pp.112-113.

16. Action item from the UC Regents March 2009 meeting, “Proposed continuation of the life-safety fee, Berkeley campus”.

17. Minutes from the UC Regents Committee on Finance, July 1999.

18. Health Fee referendum text from the University Health Services page.

19. Recreational Sports Fee referendum text from the ASUC Senate website.

20. The TGIF website includes the original referendum text along with information about the granting process and past awardees.

21. Terms and conditions of the 2010 Lower Sproul Fee referendum.

22. Minutes from the UC Regents Committee on Educational Policy, September 2000.

23. It should be noted that SHIP at Berkeley operates under a “self-insured” model. Basically, the combined premiums by all students enrolled in the plan are used to fund the combined benefits for the same pool, after the insurance company (e.g. Anthem) takes a percentage of the premiums for administering the plan. This means that any profit (if students pay more in premiums than they use in benefits) or loss (if students collectively use less than they paid for) or loss from the insurance plan remains on the Berkeley campus.


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