Gov. Brown warns UC regents about state spending

University of California President Janet Napolitano, shown at a UC Regents meeting Tuesday, has said she wants to develop a long-term strategy to keep any future tuition increases small and predictable.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like an economics professor warning his students about term paper mistakes, Gov. Jerry Brown lectured University of California leaders and faculty Thursday on the limits of state financing for higher education and urged them to adopt spending efficiencies that would avoid tuition hikes.

“The big bad state is not going to bail you out at a rate that is different from what we are doing,” Brown said at a meeting of the UC Board of Regents that was focused on establishing next year’s budget.

The governor was responding to the proposed spending plan that the regents approved Thursday, which would freeze undergraduate tuition, increase undergraduate enrollment by 2,200 students and provide 3% salary raises for UC employees. Brown criticized the system for seeking $120 million more in general state revenue than he had offered.

Brown, who is a regent, also said UC must examine and possibly reduce some of its programs and salaries in the longer term.


“Remember that students unfortunately are the default financiers of higher education in America for the last 30 years,” he said, referring to the tripling of UC tuition over the last decade. To avoid more big hikes in those fees, “we are going to have reshape the way things are done.... We are going to have to get into concrete trade-offs of how do you live within your means.”

Brown previously proposed raising general funds for UC by about 5%, or about $146 million, and on Thursday he knocked down UC’s request for an additional $120 million. The state Legislature, he said, won’t be sympathetic to UC given all the other demands on state money.

“I don’t have a Nobel Prize, but I know the political climate probably better than anybody else.... The 5% I want to give you is pretty much what you are going to get,” the governor told the regents, campus chancellors and faculty leaders.

UC President Janet Napolitano and her staff said they intend to keep their goal of freezing undergraduate tuition for state residents at $12,192 for the third year in a row even if the university does not get everything on its wish list from Sacramento. They said UC would look at some one-time financial changes and other steps to get through 2014-15. The new UC president has said she wants to develop a long-term strategy to keep any future tuition increases small and predictable.

However, officials said, UC needs more state help to pay the rising costs of pensions. The state helps fund pensions for California State University but does little for UC in that area.

The regents approved their budget on a voice vote. No one voted against it, not even Brown, but the plan could change as it works its way through Sacramento by next spring.

Unline previous governors who rarely showed up at UC regents meetings, Brown has attended many in the last year and has been vocal in his opinions that UC must figure out how to carry out its teaching and research missions less expensively. For example, he has advocated more online classes.


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