Another View: Legislature gave UC budget options to achieve

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial, “State, UC disappoint with budget tricks” (June 28), regarding the UC budget seems to scold the Legislature for not simply writing a blank check with no oversight or direction. Context is needed to understand why this budget is the most generous in nearly a decade, while asking UC to reprioritize access for California students.

Let’s start with this: We support UC and UC students. Beginning with a plan proposed last November by Speaker Toni Atkins, the Assembly sought to boost funding for UC over Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 4 percent increase.

UC ignored this plan, instead seeking to gouge California students by raising tuition 28 percent over the next five years, and threatening to hold California enrollment levels flat while boosting enrollment for out-of-state and international students. Every legislator roots for UC, but attacking student affordability and access is hardly the best method for developing a constructive partnership.

In response to the proposed tuition hike, the Assembly launched a thorough review of UC’s $27 billion budget. The final budget directly addresses many of the issues discussed during six hearings this spring. Our findings included major growth in bureaucracy, not faculty; a bloated pension system that was too generous to overly paid executives; and declining California freshman enrollment at most UC campuses.

The final budget for UC provides significant new funding, including a $119 million increase in state support with no significant strings attached, and $121 million for pension liabilities and deferred maintenance projects. It also includes $25 million in enrollment funding to add 5,000 new California students in the next two years.

UC told our subcommittee this level of growth is achievable, but it needs about $10,000 per new student to provide a quality education. The $25 million provided by the state is half of the $50 million needed.

The UC has several options to achieve the remaining $25 million, including:

▪ Excess revenue of $68 million generated by an increase in nonresident students;

▪ Savings of up to $32 million by ending financial aid to nonresident students;

▪ Cuts to excessive administrative salaries.

UC now has an opportunity to re-establish confidence with the Legislature and governor by shifting priorities toward the enrollment of California students.