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Gov. Jerry Brown's university plan is left unfinished in budget

SACRAMENTO — California’s budget is almost done, but Gov. Jerry Brown still has a lot of unfinished business when it comes to higher education.

The final spending plan does not include the governor’s proposal to tie new money for public universities to specific requirements like improving graduation rates and increasing the number of transfer students from community colleges. Nor will the plan automatically cut funding if tuition is increased.

The changes emerged after negotiations with lawmakers and officials at the University of California and California State University, who resisted much of Brown’s proposal.

For now, universities will simply be required to track nine different benchmarks, including the number of students enrolled who are low income, the percentage finishing within four or six years, and the number graduating with engineering and computer degrees.

Brown will continue pushing to tie future funding increases to improvements in those areas and others, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance. The governor and university officials plan to revisit the topic later this year. 

So far, such a deal has proved elusive. The result is one of the year’s rare setbacks for Brown, who has pushed to reshape the relationship between Sacramento and universities in hopes of making them serve more students and run more efficiently.

The Legislature is required to pass the budget by Saturday’s deadline, and Brown has until the end of the month to sign it into law. The spending plan includes $250 million more for each university, and both have agreed to forgo tuition hikes for at least the upcoming academic year.

Negotiations on other details will continue through the summer.

Dianne Klein, a UC spokeswoman, said the university wants to make sure the state’s requirements for improvements are “grounded in reality.”

Although Klein confirmed that there would not be a tuition increase this year, she said officials could not commit to more at this point.

“Plans change from year to year," she said. “We are not etching anything in stone.”

Michael Uhlenkamp, a Cal State spokesman, said the university was already making progress on the benchmarks laid out by Brown.

"We’re doing all of those things they’ve suggested," he said.

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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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