Brown, Legislature study ways to avoid UC, Cal State tuition hikes

Assembly, Senate weigh different proposals to defeat UC, Cal State tuition increases

The fate of the proposed tuition increase at University of California campuses now rests in the hands of the governor and state lawmakers, who are aligned in opposition to it but divided over how to scrap it.

The UC regents voted in November to increase tuition by as much as 28% over the next five years, triggering student protests and a chorus of political bellowing, and promised to make higher education funding one of the Capitol's hottest policy debates in the coming year.

The leaders of the state Assembly and Senate have offered plans to defeat the proposed increase and raise government funding for California's public universities.

Brown, a member of the UC Board of Regents, has proposed an annual 4% increase in state funding for the 10 University of California campuses if the current three-year tuition freeze remains in place. He also is pressing the regents to consider cost-saving changes such as offering more online courses and consolidating academic programs that are now duplicated at multiple campuses. Administration officials said the governor will address UC's financial well-being in his budget, to be released in January, but offered no details.

UC President Janet Napolitano has expressed support for some plans offered by legislators and she said she is open to studying Brown's proposals. However, she has said that the governor's proposed 4% increase is not enough to pay UC's payroll and retirement costs or to cover its plans to hire more faculty and enroll 5,000 more California undergraduates over five years.

UC received $2.64 billion in state general fund revenue this year, $460 million less than seven years ago. More than 166,000 undergraduates attend the UC campuses, and tuition is currently about $12,200 for in-state students. Here's a breakdown of the proposal to increase tuition and the alternatives being offered:

The tuition increase

A 14-7 vote by the regents gave Napolitano the authority to raise tuition each year for the next five years, with the amount dependent on state funding. The annual increase could be as high as 5% — which by 2019 could add up to a cumulative 28% increase over the current tuition.

•A third of the money raised by the increase would go toward financial aid programs.

•By 2019-20, tuition could be as high as $15,564 a year if the state does not increase funding.

•The cost of a UC education — tuition, room and board, books and other expenses — currently can total $30,000 for state residents. Students from other states and countries pay a $23,000 premium in addition to tuition.

The Assembly proposal

Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) proposed an additional $50 million in state funding for the UC system to avoid tuition increases; the California State University colleges would get extra money as well.
The plan also would:

•Increase Cal Grant financial aid for lower-income families and require UC to maintain existing aid.

•Speed up the Middle Class Scholarship program to cut fees for qualifying families by more than 20% in the 2015-2016 school year.

•Increase UC enrollment of California students by 10,000 over five years and cap enrollment of out-of-state students at 2014-2015 levels.

•Increase the tuition premium for out-of-state students by $5,000, which would raise an additional $100 million annually.

Atkins also vowed to take a "zero-based" approach to crafting the UC budget next year. That would build the system's budget from zero, rather than from previous years' spending, and would mean scrutinizing each line item in the proposed plan. Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto supports the zero-based budgeting. Also, Assembly member Young Kim (R-Fullerton) has proposed legislation that would freeze tuition at the state's public colleges and universities as long as the temporary state tax increase under Proposition 30, approved by voters in 2012, remains in effect.

The Senate proposal

Democrats have offered a plan to eliminate the tuition increase, expand enrollment at the UC and Cal State systems and provide grants as incentives to Cal State students who stay on track to complete their degrees in four years. The plan was proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

It would cost the state $342 million next year, rising to $434 million. Money would come from taking $580 million over three years from the Middle Class Scholarship program, instituting a 17% increase in the premium charged to out-of-state students and siphoning $156 million from the general fund the first year, dropping to $66 million in the third year.

The plan would also:

•Increase UC enrollment by 5,000 students and Cal State enrollment by 10,500 students next year, at an additional total cost of $113 million per year.

•Provide $75 million each to UC and Cal State annually to pay for more courses and counseling services so students can graduate on time.

•Provide up to $4,500 in "completion incentive grants" to motivate Cal State students to carry a full load of at least 15 credits so that they can graduate in four years, rather than the current average of six years. Students would get a $1,000 grant for completing 30 units by the first year, an additional $1,500 for completing 60 units by the second year and an additional $2,000 for completing 90 units by the third year.

•Fund 7,500 additional Cal Grant competitive awards for older, nontraditional students.

•Repeal this year's scheduled 11% cut to Cal Grants for about 29,000 students attending private and nonprofit universities.

•Encourage corporations and individuals to invest in the College Access Tax Credit Fund, which provides $500 million in tax credits for charitable donations to the fund. The money would go to double funding of Cal Grant Access Awards for community college students.

•Phase out the Middle Class Scholarship program, which in its first year provided tuition credits for 73,000 students from families with incomes between $80,000 and $150,000. Current recipients would continue to get funds until they graduate, but no other students would be allowed into the program. The credits average $1,112 for those enrolled at UC and $628 at Cal State.

Neither the governor nor the California Legislature has the authority to force the UC regents to rescind the tuition increase. However, they do have power over state funding provided to the university system, giving them political leverage.

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