California Legislature reaches agreement to increase UC funding

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Amanda Hart/File

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The UC system will receive $177.1 million in one-time general funding and $97.1 million in ongoing funds for the 2018-19 fiscal year, as outlined in a provisional state budget agreement reached by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders Friday.

While the agreement is only tentative, the state budget has already been passed by the state Budget Conference Committee. The budget still requires a vote by the full Legislature and Brown’s signature in order to pass before the June 15 deadline, according to Sarah Abdeshahian, communications director for Student Regent Paul Monge.

According to the conference committee’s closeout agenda, $5 million in ongoing funding will be distributed to support increased undergraduate enrollment on top of the $92.1 million ongoing fund in Brown’s January budget proposal and $105 million in one-time funding for “general university needs.” UC Berkeley specifically will receive $25 million to address its operating deficit.

“The University of California is pleased that state government leaders appear to have reached agreement to increase funding for the university in the 2018-19 fiscal year state budget that will allow UC to put off a tuition increase for California students and provide much needed funds for deferred maintenance,” said UC Office of the President, or UCOP, spokesperson Stephanie Beechem in an email.

The budget agreement comes amid months of work from students across the UC campuses, who have been teaming up with UC faculty to lobby Sacramento legislators since the original budget proposal in January.

“We started strategizing as soon as we saw the initial budget and then started working with the other UCs to make sure we were calling the right committee members,” said incoming ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay.

Students also attended each budget hearing, according to Abdeshahian — they addressed the budget committee during public comment, lobbied for funding and asked for legislators’ support.

Student and administration collaboration, however, did not yield all that was requested. The original funding request included $70 million to go toward a tuition buyout and funding student services, including through the hiring of new faculty, and expanding academic counseling and mental health services, according to the UC’s 2018-19 budget request.

“The Senate version of the UC funding package did include another $25 million for mental health, but it was excluded from the final agreement,” Khalfay said. “There’s room for improvement, and we’ll be focusing on that next year.”

The UC system’s initial request also included $105 million in ongoing funds and $35 million in one-time funds — not the ongoing $97.1 million and one-time $177.1 million that were agreed upon by state leaders. Additionally, $25 million was requested to support the increase in student enrollment above what the Budget Act of 2015 allowed for, and $10 million was requested for the expected increase in undergraduate enrollment.

UCOP is aware that the budget may still change because of its provisional status, Beechem said in an email. Monge said there is “little to no chance” that the provisional budget agreement will be changed between now and Brown signing it, however, since Brown made the agreement in the first place.

“Now that resources are coming to the campuses, we want to make sure there are meaningful efforts by the chancellors on how to allocate the resources,” Monge said. “Students helped in getting the money, and I hope that (the chancellors) appreciate that by involving students in their allocation decision.”

Campus-specific funding included UC Berkeley’s aforementioned increase, $1.8 million for UCLA’s African American studies department and $2.8 million for UC Davis’ Aggie Square planning costs.

“We look forward to continuing to partner with our elected leaders to secure ongoing funding that will ensure today’s students receive the same excellent UC education as did past generations,” Beechem said in the email.

Contact Alyssa Bernardino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.