By now, I suspect you have heard news of the 9.6 percent tuition increase that the UC Regents reluctantly approved last week. I'm writing directly to all UCSC students today to explain the context in which this difficult choice was made.

Four years of budget cuts to the university have displeased everyone--students, staff, faculty, and families.

Faculty worry that the quality of your educational experience is suffering. Staff are frustrated that layoffs and workload issues are jeopardizing their ability to deliver the level of support students deserve. Parents want reassurance that we can offer the classes you need in order to graduate on time.

At UCSC, we asked administrative units to take a larger share of the latest budget cut. Still, I know budget reductions have impacted you: Class sizes are growing, and the loss of faculty positions and funding for lecturers and teaching assistants has reduced the number of sections available to you.

These concerns were on my mind when I addressed the Regents last week. As burdensome as this tuition increase will be for many students, please remember that the university turned to this option only after absorbing $500 million in cuts for the coming year. The new tuition revenue will allow us to move forward by offsetting an additional $150 million cut to UC that was included in the final state budget.

On our campus, we are working to staunch the damage imposed by the cuts. We are improving our curriculum planning to do a better job of delivering the courses you need, and faculty are reviewing the requirements of each major to ensure that you can make swift progress toward a meaningful degree.

Two final thoughts: First, under the university's financial aid programs, nearly half of UCSC's undergraduates will receive additional aid that will fully cover the latest tuition increase for the 2011-12 school year. But I do not want to minimize the impact of this increase on many others. I have heard some students refer to tuition increases as a "tax on the middle class," and I am inclined to agree. There is no relief for many families.

Lastly, as we head into another year of budgetary uncertainty, I hope you will join me in reminding our elected officials that investing in higher education is the right thing to do. Students have been among the most effective advocates for the university, and legislators need to hear your voices. More information is available online.