During the economic boom years, many state universities did not increase tuition or had token increases in tuition. Well, now it looks like in the face of massive state budget shortfalls, state university systems are looking at the possibility of massive tuition hikes. In California students are protesting a possible 32% tuition increase of what would amount to $2,500 per year.
Now don't get me wrong, when you are paying roughly $7,000 per year already, a one third increase hurts and I do sympathize with students getting smacked around by this particuarly hike. But the problem is not this tuition increase, but the years when there were no increases. You cannot hold a service price level for so many years (despite the fact that the costs of that service have increased every year) and not pay the piper at some point. Now it is time to pay the piper and the University Regents have only themselves to blame.
College costs money and those costs go up every year no matter what is done. But for years universities have been reluctant to increase fees--particularly on in-state students. Increasing tuition on in-state students is political dynamite. Well now, instead of small, 2-5 percent increases every year, the UC system is looking at a one-third increase in the political equivalent of thermonuclear device.