One state's governor, university system locked in ongoing budget standoff

Higher education receives funding increase, but presidents say it is not enough

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) released his $164.7 billion budget proposal last week, awarding more funds than last year to the state's higher education system but less than the $100 million administrators said they needed to avoid hiking tuition.

Why is this important for other schools? What UC's funding battle means beyond California

University of California (UC) system President Janet Napolitano says she is disappointed by the proposal and renewed the possibility that tuition may jump by up to 5% annually for the next five years. Brown has threatened to nix the additional funding for UC unless it freezes tuition.

Background

The UC Board of Regents in November voted 14-7 to approve the end of a three-year tuition freeze. Under the proposal, in-state tuition would rise 5% annually, to as high as $15,564 by the 2019-2020 academic year.

UC officials are quick to note that only 30% of in-state undergraduates pay full tuition, and approximately half pay no tuition at all after accounting for financial aid and tax credits.

Napolitano says the system needs more money to help pay for salaries and enrollment expansion, but has noted that additional funding from the state would alleviate the need for tuition increases.

Governor, Legislature fight UC tuition hike

Napolitano's actions are opposed by Brown, who says the $120 million in additional state funding is contingent on freezing tuition.

A continued standoff

When UC regents meet this month, Brown is expected to propose an examination of UC's spending by a special committee.

Napolitano, in turn, has pointed to the highest-ever number of UC system applicants and reiterated that the tuition hikes can be reduced or nixed entirely with enough state funding.

"Public universities require public support," said Napolitano in a statement. "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."

Sen. President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who supports additional funding, called the budget "the first step in the discussion with the Legislature."

Helping struggling families will "require better investment in education at all levels, protecting the safety net, and providing the funding to continue building the low-carbon economy of tomorrow," says De Leon.

The effect on Cal State

The governor's plan would give $119.5 million more than last year to California State University (Cal State)—$97.1 million less than it requested—enabling it to enroll approximately 3,500 more students, though it aimed to add 12,000 more in the upcoming school year. An additional, one-time $25 million will go toward maintenance and repairs, estimated to cost $1.8 billion in total.

Transfer-only universities may be coming to California

School officials say the allocation will leave them short of the support necessary to completely address technology updates, and student completion and success programs. However, since they have no plan to raise tuition, "we will make do," says Mike Uhlenkamp, a Cal State spokesman.

Student reaction

On campus, students are stuck "in the middle" between Brown and Napolitano, says Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, president of the system-wide UC Student Association.

Though he thanked Brown for increased monetary support and supports the tuition freeze, Kuoch-Seng also said he hopes to see more funding by the final budget due in June (Gordon/Rivera, Los Angeles Times, 1/9; Mason/McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 1/9).


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