UC Regents meet in Sacramento to discuss budget, projects at UC Berkeley and Merced

Student regent Jonathan Stein speaks during the July 18th 2012, UC Regents meeting.

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The UC Board of Regents met on Wednesday in Sacramento to discuss the governor’s May budget revision and capital projects at UC Merced and UC Berkeley, among other issues.

The governor’s May budget revision, released Tuesday, remains largely unchanged from the January proposal. Patrick Lenz, the university’s vice president for budget and capital resources, said the university did not receive any additional increases in funding in the May revision.

The budget also calls for a four-year tuition freeze for all students except those in professional schools, a restructuring of debt and discontinuation of a proposed unit cap on state-subsidized courses, which could have affected 2,200 UC students in the next school year.

Student Regent Jonathan Stein and Regent Bonnie Reiss raised concerns about rising costs of professional student fees while undergraduate and other program costs have been held constant.

“Because Prop. 30 passed and because of new state revenues, we’ve been able to hold tuition constant,” Stein said. “In reality, we’ve been able to hold undergraduate and Ph.D tuition constant while professional schools continue to rise.”

The regents also discussed restructuring the university’s debt. The state of California currently takes out bonds on behalf of the university, but UC officials say shifting the responsibility of the debt to the UC system would help lower the debt.

“That debt is greater because the state of California’s credit rating is not as good as ours,” said Brooke Converse, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President. “What we’re asking is that the state of California let us take over and restructure that debt, because if we restructure it, we’ll be able to save $80 million a year.”

The university is also working with the governor to expand facilities at UC Merced, said Nathan Brostrom, the university’s executive vice president for business operations.

“The highest priority is a classroom and academic building at UC Merced,” Brostrom said. “They are now close to 6,000 students, and they do not have space for continued growth unless they get more classroom buildings.”

The regents also approved a plan to build a new aquatics center at UC Berkeley on the current site of the Tang Center parking lot.

Protesters from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, a union representing patient-care workers at UC medical centers, also interrupted early in the meeting for about 45 minutes to protest in favor of higher pay and increased staffing.

On Thursday, the regents will meet in closed sessions to discuss collective bargaining matters and lawsuits related to the UC system.

 

Staff writer Virgie Hoban contributed to this report. 

Mitchell Handler covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @mitchellhandler.