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Will a strong economy and a new governor help UC and Cal State meet goals without raising tuition?

Will a strong economy and a new governor help UC and Cal State meet goals without raising tuition?
Amora Haynes, center, from Vallejo, signs her intent to enroll at UCLA. The University of California and Cal State systems aim to boost enrollment in the upcoming academic year. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The University of California and California State University plan to enroll more than 23,000 additional local students in the next academic year without raising tuition, according to budget proposals set for debate at separate meetings this week.

Leaders of California’s two public university systems are hoping that a robust economy and new governor will favor their pitch for more state funding to expand enrollment, boost student support and repair aging buildings. Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, as an ex-officio member of UC and Cal State governing boards, has repeatedly voted against tuition hikes, saying the Legislature should step up and adequately fund higher education.

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“The governor has shown high interest in higher education over his term as lieutenant governor … so I'm hopeful about the coming budget year and the willingness now of both the governor and the Legislature to meet these goals of enrollment and quality to serve this next generation of Californians,” said George Kieffer, chairman of the UC Board of Regents.

Both systems are trying to do their part to prepare for the future, given projections that California will need an additional 1.1 million workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2030 to replace retiring baby boomers and meet the state’s economic demands. To get there, the Public Policy Institute of California estimates that Cal State and UC would need to graduate 481,000 and 251,000 more students, respectively, than they did in 2015-16.

Cal State, whose trustees begin a two-day meeting Tuesday in Long Beach, hopes to enroll 21,000 more students — a 5% increase over the current academic year — in 2019-20.

For the first time, the university plans to redirect students who are fully qualified for Cal State but get rejected or waitlisted at their first choice campuses to other campuses with more room.

Last year, Cal State turned away 32,000 qualified students because of a lack of campus space and staff. Six of its 23 campuses — Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Diego, San Jose and San Luis Obispo — attract more qualified applicants than they can accommodate.

“We feel we have capacity but it's simply a matter of us receiving the funding from the state,” said Cal State spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp. “With the economy looking fairly strong, we are going to ask the incoming governor and the Legislature to really provide us the funds that are going to allow us to fulfill our university mission.”

Cal State’s proposed $7.3-billion operating budget requests $456 million in additional state funding and includes $98.3 million in extra tuition revenues anticipated from expanded enrollment. The combined increase would help pay for the additional students, who cost about $11,000 each to educate annually ($206 million), fund employee raises ($148 million), and go toward efforts to increase graduation rates ($75 million), infrastructure needs ($80 million) and health benefits, retirements and other mandatory costs ($45.4 million).

The budget also includes one-time funding requests of $250 million to repair or replace aging facilities and $15 million to help students in need of food and shelter.

UC campuses plan to enroll an additional 2,500 California undergraduates, 800 nonresident undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students in 2019-20. Since fall 2014, UC has upped its previous enrollment levels of California undergraduates by more than 15,000.

UC regents, who will begin their two-day meeting Wednesday in San Francisco, plan to vote on a $9.3-billion core budget plan to cover its academic mission for 2019-20. It will be the first budget year of a multiyear blueprint that aims to expand enrollment, improve academic outcomes and give the system more financial stability after years of sharp funding swings in the wake of the 2008 recession.

UC’s budget plan requests $277.6 million in additional state funding — including $63.8 million to avoid increases in tuition and student fees. Officials also are asking for $100 million in one-time funding to repair aging facilities. The university expects to raise $106 million more in tuition revenue from expanded enrollment and higher fees on nonresident students, and $70.4 million more from investments, philanthropy and cost savings, than it did in the current year budget.

All told, the increased revenue would pay for enrollment growth ($86.3 million), enhanced academic support ($60 million), faculty and staff raises ($137 million), building maintenance ($115 million) and health benefits, retirement and other mandatory costs ($119.8 million).

Last year, both Cal State and UC avoided tuition increases after intense lobbying by students, faculty, board members and administrators persuaded state officials to boost funding.

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