UC Regents voice concern over budget demands

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Despite proposed increases in state funding for higher education, members of the UC Board of Regents expressed concerns about Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, citing it as a temporary solution to long-term financial woes at their meeting Thursday.

At the meeting, Brown, an ex-officio regent, suggested further fiscal discipline to make up for shortfalls in state funding. His proposals included reducing students average graduation time, lowering administrators’ compensation and decreasing faculty benefits.

Brown assumed an unusually active role in the financial committee’s discussion, at one point quoting Cicero’s “On the Republic” to describe the university’s current fiscal situation as part of a larger class conflict between the “elites and the plebeians.”

In response to the governor’s request for further fiscal discipline, Regent Richard Blum pointed out that UC faculty and executives continue to have significantly lower salaries than their counterparts at private universities — a trend that Blum said will “only result in the UC becoming a junior college.”

“You have to ask yourself, do you want the UC’s campuses to be as good as they have always been?” Blum said.

California Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, warned the regents that Brown’s budget proposal is unlikely to pass if Sacramento’s demand for stable tuition levels is not met.

“If the discussion with the members of Legislature has the same tones as present here, I do not think you will be successful with the outcomes you want” Perez said. “Over the last several years there have been 900 million in cuts. Fee increases have been 1.4 billion. The fee increases are disproportionate to the disinvestment of the state.

According to Regent Sherry Lansing, current chair of the board, increasing tuition for certain graduate programs remained a possibility for dealing with fiscal difficulties — a statement that drew sharp criticism from  Student Regent Jonathan Stein and Perez. Still, she said, undergraduate tuition increases in the 2013-14 school year are highly unlikely.

Lansing praised the president and speaker for facilitating “healthy discourse,” which she said is productive in helping find alternative sources of revenue to state appropriations.

Contact Alex Berryhill and Shirin Ghaffary at [email protected]