UC and Cal State hope for more funding than Brown offers

Gov. Brown's budget gives UC and Cal State more than last year but not the boost universities sought

After Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal was announced Friday, reaction from California’s public universities showed that much lobbying and political maneuvering is ahead to establish higher education spending levels for next year.  

UC President Janet Napolitano on Friday said she was disappointed with Brown’s budget proposal,  and she did not back down from the possibility that UC tuition might rise by as much as 5% in each of the next five years.  Brown continued to oppose any such tuition hike and his budget plan did not go beyond the initial $120 million in state funding for UC that he previously promised.

“The proposal that Governor Brown released today is only the first step in the process of enacting a state budget. While we are disappointed the governor did not include sufficient revenue to expand enrollment of California students and reinvest in academic quality at the university, we are hopeful that continued discussions with the governor and the legislature will yield a budget that maintains the access, affordability and excellence for which the University of California is renowned,” Napolitano said in a statement.

Some of the most closely watched negotiations of the year will be taking place with the University of California, where the Board of Regents voted for annual tuition increases of 5% over the next five years.

Brown did not offer to give UC the extra $100 million that Napolitano said was needed to prevent the tuition increase. Instead, he included his original offering of $120 million, and even that amount would be yanked if student fees increase. Much maneuvering is ahead over the next few months, starting with the UC regents meeting later this month, at which Brown is expected to propose a panel to examine UC’s spending.

Noting that the UC system recently received a record number of applications for admission, Napolitano once again sought to make the case that the 10 UC campuses need more state funding than Brown offered.  She has said that the tuition hikes can be reduced to less than 5% or eliminated with sufficient state funding.

“Public universities require public support. On a per-student basis, the state is paying far less than it did in 1991 – from about $18,000 in 1991 to $8,000 today, in 2014-15 dollars. The university is receiving $460 million less in funding from the state than it did in 2007, even as it educates thousands more California students,” Napolitano's statement said.

Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, president of the systemwide UC Student Assn., said in an interview Friday that students feel stuck “in the middle” in the disagreement between Brown and Napolitano.

“We really want Gov. Brown and President Napolitano to work together,” he said, adding that students also want to have a strong voice in any decisions about funding and tuition.

Kuoch-Seng, who is a student at UC Merced, thanked the governor for increasing funding and for insisting that tuition remain frozen as it has been for the past three years. But he also said he hoped that more state money will be forthcoming by the time the Legislature finishes the budget in late spring.

Otherwise, Kuoch-Seng said he expected that the full 5% tuition hike would be put into place, bringing undergraduate tuition for Californians next year to $12,804, without including housing, food and special campus fees.

The student organization noted that Brown reiterated his goal to establish with UC a special committee to examine the university’s cost structure. However, the student leader noted that no details about that panel, including its membership, scope or timing, have been publicly released.

Brown’s proposed $119.5-million funding increase for California State University is about $97.1 million less than the university had requested and will allow for enrolling about 3,500 additional students. The Cal State system, by contrast, had hoped to enroll about 12,000 additional students for the 2015-16 academic year, officials said.

The governor’s plan does include a new and separate one-time allocation of $25 million for critical Cal State deferred maintenance and repairs, which officials estimate would take $1.8 billion to fully resolve. But the budget proposal, they said, would leave the Cal State system short of funds to fully address students' success and completion programs as well as technology upgrades across the 23-campus system.

Cal State officials signaled their intent to press the governor and the Legislature for more resources. However, unlike UC, Cal State has no current plans to hike tuition. If no more money is forthcoming, “we will make do,” said Cal State spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.

The governor’s budget “acknowledges the university’s vital role as a leading economic driver in the state and nation, providing quality degree programs that support the success and social mobility of the university’s highly diverse student population,” Steve Relyea, Cal State’s executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer, said in a statement. 

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