UC tuition: So many students pay zip. Isn’t this news? No, says LAT.

The California media have a troubling habit of leaving out crucial facts in their coverage of big stories. On AB 32, an absolutely crucial selling point in 2006 was that the legislation increasing energy costs to fight global warming wouldn’t hurt California because it would inspire the rest of the world to copy us. Five years later, it’s plain that that never happened. Isn’t this, yunno, news? Not according to the George Skeltons of the world. Now we are having tons of coverage of escalating tuition at UC. Isn’t it, yunno, news that at least a third of UC students are eligible for a program that guarantees they pay NO TUITION/FEES AT ALL? Of course it is. But not according to the California media, as shown by a fresh example Monday in the state’s largest newspaper.

Here’s the program:

UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan will cover your educational and student services fees if you are a California resident whose family earns less than $80,000 a year and you qualify for financial aid — and that’s just for starters. Blue + Gold students with sufficient financial need can qualify for even more grant aid to help reduce the cost of attending.

Never heard about this before? Join the rest of California. This isn’t brought up by the media in 99 percent of the stories about UC tuition — Nanette Asimov of the Chronicle occasionally mentions it. Why isn’t it brought up? Who knows? But it certainly undercuts the narrative of the put-upon UC students and the mean taxpayers who won’t do more to help the put-upon UC students.

Now who’s the latest George Skelton type to hide this key detail about this key state issue? Why, it’s George Skelton himself:

Consider: In 1980, the average annual cost of undergraduate tuition and fees at the University of California was $776. Today, it’s $13,218. That’s an 18% increase over last year, which was 14% higher than the previous year, which was 23% steeper than the year before that.

Add up room, board, books and pocket change and you’re easily into 30-plus grand.

How can Skelton justify leaving the Blue and Gold program out of his narrative? That tuition and fees are not, in fact, soaring for UC’s neediest students BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE TO PAY ANY? This is incredible.

I remember hearing the theory when people like Jeff Jacoby came along and were given columns that there was something risky about entrusting columns to people who hadn’t spent years covering the news as a regular journo. The fear was that they wouldn’t show journalistic balance and rigor in presenting the facts.

Well, what’s Skelton’s excuse? Before he was a columnist, he was Sacramento bureau chief for the L.A. Times for a long time. But instead of that leading him to present a full picture, he skews the facts as relentlessly as a Paul Krugman or Sean Hannity.

On the other hand, when it comes to the Blue and Gold program, it’s not just the columnists who don’t acknowledge its existence. It’s just about every journalist in California who writes about UC and its tuition policies. Reverse Pulitzers should go to the entire lot.

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