COLA Factsheet

What is COLA?

  • COLA stands for “Cost-of-Living Adjustment.”
  • Federal guidelines define rent burden to be when monthly rent exceeds 30 percent of monthly income (1).
  • In 2019, monthly rent and utilities in Santa Barbara averaged $1,208 based on 2017 UC data (2), adjusted for recent rent increases (3).
  • A TA’s monthly income is $2,358 (after fees). Average rent is therefore 51 percent of monthly income, which is severe rent burden.
  • Overcoming rent burden requires a monthly income of $4,166, meaning a COLA of $1,808.

How much will COLA cost?

  • COLA amounts reflect costs at each campus.
  • This money will come from the UC Office of the President.
  • COLA for all UC PhD and Master’s students results in a twelve-month cost of $785 million (4).
  • This cost is less than 2 percent of the 2019–20 operating budget of $39.8 billion (5) and less than 5 percent of the total 2018 UC employee payroll of $16 billion (6).

(1) Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Affordable Housing.”
(2) Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, University of California, Office of the President. “Findings from the Graduate and Professional Student Cost of Attendance Survey, 2016–17,” 4–5.
(3) Zillow Research. “Housing Data.”
(4) Using Fall 2019 enrollment numbers and COLA amounts as computed by the UAW framework.
(5) University of California, “Budget for Current Operations: Summary of the Budget Request As Approved by the Regents, 2020–21,” 6.
(6) University of California, Office of the President, Institutional Research and Academic Planning, Compensation Reporting, “Table 1: Total Pay by Occupational Group.”