California Legislature approves new budget, increased funding to UC

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Amanda Hart/Courtesy

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The California Legislature approved a $170.9 billion state budget plan Wednesday, allocating $3.5 billion to the University of California for the 2016-17 school year.

The new budget expands funding for higher education and provides additional funding to the University of California if more in-state students are enrolled for the next academic year.

According to Jason Constantouros, the fiscal and policy analyst at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the funding for the university increased by $282 million from last year. Constantouros said $144 million of the increased funds will go to ongoing costs and $138 million will go to one-time funds such as unfunded liabilities and maintenance.

“The budget provides critical new funding for important UC priorities, including research and innovation, outreach, academic support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, diversity and enrollment,” said UCOP spokesperson Kate Moser in an email statement.

If the university increases in-state enrollment by 2,500 students for the 2017-18 academic year, the Legislature would award the university an additional $18.5 million. This level of per-student funding, though less than the $10,000 per-student that the university had wanted, is more than what was provided the previous year.

In a statement from UCOP, UC president Janet Napolitano said she was pleased that the budget allocates $20 million to support “UC’s outreach and support for low-income and underrepresented minority students.” Napolitano added that funding to support the university’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative would “foster economic development for Californians,” according to the statement.

Kevin Sabo, president of the UC Student Association, said the budget does not fully fund undergraduate enrollment and fails to provide adequate financial aid to students. He highlighted several problems faced by students — such as homelessness and inadequate housing opportunities — and added the importance of investing in higher education.

“The state needs to have a long conversation about student poverty and how to address it,” Sabo said.

Sabo said that though UC had asked for $6 million in funding to support graduate student programs and increase graduate enrollment, the budget did not fulfill this request. He added that graduate students are important in the instruction and mentorship of undergraduates.

“What the state needs to understand is that you can’t expand undergraduate enrollment without expanding graduate enrollment,” Sabo said.

According to the UC budget request for 2016-17, the student-to-faculty ratio has fallen dramatically during the recent fiscal crisis and is now 21-to-1. John Douglass, senior research fellow at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, expressed concern toward the increase in student enrollment.

“With the university taking on more students, the question is whether the funding is sufficient to reduce the student-to-faculty ratio,” Douglass said.

Contact Shanzeh Khurram at [email protected].

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