Just hours before the Sunday deadline, state lawmakers passed a balanced budget that provides some additional funding for public higher education but does not include the full amount requested by the University of California.
The budget bill outlines several provisions that would mete out funds for public higher education, including an extra $39 million for the Cal Grant program, $4 million for the centers for labor research and education at UC Berkeley and UCLA and $50 million in funding for deferred maintenance projects if revenues from property taxes are higher than initially projected. Despite this funding increase, the university continues to face a significant funding gap after failing to receive the additional $124.9 million it requested.
Jennifer Kuhn, a deputy legislative analyst in the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, called the increases in Cal Grant funding “legislative priorities.” She added that the local property tax revenue surplus necessary for the additional $50 million in funding was likely.
“While our UC and CSU systems receive a 5 percent boost above last year’s level, higher education remains at historic low levels of state investment,” said Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in a statement Sunday about the budget.
A report released in January from the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy at CSU Sacramento found that there is a relationship between budget cuts and fewer high school graduates going straight to college in recent years.
“The limits on state funding also reflect an implicit public judgment that public higher education is more of a gain for the individual than for society,” said C. Judson King, director of the campus Center for Studies in Higher Education, in an email. “What is more and more becoming lost is the recognition that public higher education carries a benefit to society at large.”
Because of the freeze in tuition for the past several years, the university has had to creatively compensate for the decrease in public funding, which ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula said has shifted the burden from the state to students.
Upadhyayula said UC Berkeley needs to explore other funding options and suggested the creation of small pilot programs to explore funding models that could eventually become sustainable.
UC Berkeley is largely dependent on external elements for funding, such as donations from alumni and the tuition of out-of-state and international students, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said. In addition, Mogulof said the campus has also worked to lower its operating cost through actions including reducing the number of employees.
The campus has also utilized techniques such as expanding corporate partnerships, Upadhyayula said.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn said she was excited to see an increase in Cal Grant funding, which she said will help low-income students cover the cost of attending college. But Quinn added that she is concerned the increase from last year in UC funding will be “sucked up into the administration,” which she said has not done enough to lobby for additional funding.
“The whole point of having President (Janet) Napolitano is for her political power,” Quinn said. “I wish we had seen more of the money that comes with her alleged power.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has until June 30 to sign or veto the budget bill.