UC regents consider financial sustainability, possible tuition hikes

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Jessica Gleason/File

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents convened Wednesday at UCSF Mission Bay to discuss potential tuition increases and approved a three-year financial sustainability plan for the university.

UC Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom acknowledged an existing gap between the $7 billion received from UC tuition and state funding and the $30 billion operational budget. Brostrom proposed a $300 or less increase in tuition, depending on a potential increase in graduate student enrollment.

This potential hike comes after last year’s approved enrollment growth of more than 5,000 students. An agreement between UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown to freeze tuition for two years is set to expire at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

During public comment, members of Teamsters Local 2010, a union representing UC workers, staged a demonstration in which they demanded higher wages and food security, chanting “Pay us enough to eat!”

This demonstration was in response to an October study by Occidental College, which concluded that 70 percent of full time clerical, administrative and support UC workers suffer from food insecurity or hunger. Also during public comment, seven university students spoke up to encourage the university to divest from fossil fuels.

During the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee’s session, UC Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom discussed the system’s preliminary 2017-18 budget, which is to be finalized by January. Key features of the budget included growth of undergraduate and graduate student enrollment, in conjunction with mandatory cost increases.

The regents approved a three-year financial sustainability plan that will consist of cost-saving alternative revenues, a potential “modest” adjustment in tuition and analysis of projected graduation rates.

Anticipated student growth is in addition to the 5,900 new students welcomed this fall.

The Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the board heard a presentation on the effect of demographic trends in California on UC enrollment and diversity. Additionally, the board discussed contributions to the UC retiree health and pension funds, to which Brostrom stated there would be no increase in contribution rate.

According to UC Vice President of Institutional Research and Academic Planning Pamela Brown, recent projections done by the UC Office of the President show that the number of California high school graduates is expected to grow by more than 30,000 in the next decade, particularly in the Hispanic/Latino population, which has seen the rate increase 11 percent in the past five years.

Brown added, however, that there has been a significant decline between the percentage of UC eligible underrepresented minority students that graduate from California high schools and the percentage of students that actually applies to the university.

The regents also heard a presentation on the potential impact of the federal election on higher education policy. Gary Falle, the university’s associate vice president for Federal Governmental Relations, said that although President-elect Donald Trump has publicized a few intended higher education policiessuch as downsizing the U.S. Department of Education and overhauling the federal student loan system — the specific details of his plans are still unknown.

“The only thing we know is uncertainty at this point in time,” Falle said.

UC Regents Bonnie Reiss and Sherry Lansing emphasized the importance of building and developing relationships with state legislators, encouraging the UC chancellors of each campus to invite their state legislators to their campus.

“We’re willing to do more than make a phone call,” Lansing said. “We’re willing to go to Sacramento with you. … We’re willing to do whatever is necessary to help.”

The board will reconvene Thursday to approve recommendations from Wednesday’s meeting and to discuss financial aid and tuition.

Contact Harini Shyamsundar and Audrey McNamara at [email protected].

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