UC Berkeley j-students: Why we oppose the proposed $10,250 per year supplemental fee

The $10,250 per year supplemental fee that was proposed two weeks ago by UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism dean Ed Wasserman will be considered by faculty members today. They received this letter on Wednesday from the j-school’s Student Leadership Committee.

Dear J-school faculty,

Tomorrow, you all will be considering two important questions that are paramount to the future of the journalism school: Should there be a supplemental tuition fee imposed on students and, if so, how much should the fee be? BERK

When you respond to these questions, the student leadership committee asks that you take to heart the outpouring of student and alumni concern regarding the PDST [Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition] proposal put forward by the dean. We know these issues are already in your minds, but since students cannot be in the room with you on Thursday, and will not have a second chance to weigh in on any proposal changes that might come from Thursday’s meeting, we would like to reiterate some of the central arguments students have made against the dean’s proposed PDST. We hope you take these into consideration when making your decision.

Imposing a PDST that nearly doubles the amount of tuition students must pay to attend the J-school would likely cause a drop in the number of Berkeley J-school applicants. This could ultimately devalue the degrees offered here, as demand for a spot in North Gate Hall decreases./CONTINUES

Newsrooms have traditionally lacked diversity, so imposing a PDST will negatively impact both the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the J-school, stymying current efforts to make the J-school a more inclusive and diverse institution that is accessible and welcoming to all colors and incomes. The financial aid incentives provided through a PDST only address this issue among a small fraction of students. The majority of students would still be expected to pay the fee.

The students who would have to pay this PDST, which they will likely pay for with student loans, will then be sent out into an industry where 15 percent of the job market disappeared in 2012 alone and average salaries range in the low $30,000’s. The J-school wants to address its own deficit, but how does it expect future students to address their own student loan deficits should they be required to pay an extra $10,250 a year?

Other options have not been exhausted. It is the administration’s job to raise funds in order to keep the J-school thriving and to reduce the financial impact of the degree program on students. Raising student fees is not fundraising. When students and alumni repeatedly asked the administration about their fundraising efforts so far, it was clear that the administration has not exhausted all potential revenue sources and alternative funding models. Imposing a student fee should be an absolute last resort.

Students are still susceptible to any potential UC-wide fee hikes. The current moratorium on UC fee hikes is only temporary and, given the UC’s recent history with drastic fee hikes, it is entirely possible that students will face more fee hikes in the future, on top of a PDST, should one be imposed.

We understand the school is in need of more funding in order to address its deficit and improve student services. But imposing a student fee does not eliminate the school’s debt – it transfers that debt onto students.

You, as faculty, know us. You work with us. You see how much we improve and grow in the two years that we are here at North Gate. Imposing a PDST would financially cripple students as soon as they leave the courtyard in their graduation robes. It would be a waste for students to leave the J-school worried only about getting a job that will pay their debt instead of looking forward to getting their dream job or pursuing their dream independent project.

Of course, the student body remains adamantly opposed to any PDST fee whatsoever, but we are asking that if the faculty were to support a PDST it would need to be drastically reduced from the $10,250/year figure original proposed by the dean.

The Student Leadership Committee (TLC)

* Earlier: UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism dean proposes $10,250 supplemental fee (jimromenesko.com)