UC Regents address shortfall of state funding at board meeting Wednesday

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UC Regent Norman Pattiz, right, can be heard asking a colleague if he can hold her breasts in a recently released audio recording.

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Regents focused on a shortfall of state funding in discussing next year’s budget at their board meeting Wednesday, with little talk of potential tuition hikes for students.

Looking to the 2015-16 budget, the university identified an estimated $120 million to $135 million in mandatory cost increases and an additional $190 million to $205 million in cost increases for other high-priority items such as faculty pay increases, support for enrollment growth and deferred maintenance.

The university also found that making meaningful progress toward “reinvestment in quality” would require approximately $50 million for efforts ranging from reducing student-faculty ratios to augmenting salaries that lag behind competing institutions.

Of this total cost increase of $360 million to $390 million, only $119 million would currently be provided by the state, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s multiyear funding plan — not even enough to cover the full mandatory costs.

Yet the issue of tuition hikes remained in the background, with the discussion summary document saying “the remaining support needed to fund the budget plan will likely require either additional State funds or increases in mandatory systemwide tuition and fees.”

University of California Student Association President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, a UC Merced senior, cautioned the regents against further tuition increases.

“An increase in tuition would affect the already growing concern for mental health,” Kuoch-Seng said at the meeting.

From there, the meeting turned to disavowing certain myths about the UC system. The regents made multiple references to misperceptions about UC funding and performance, which they heard about during a confirmation hearing for four regents in August.

“We as regents, if we’re going to do the job, have to make the people of California understand that this system is taken for granted, underappreciated,” said UC Regent Richard Blum. “We at the university get the short stick.”

Nathan Brostrom, UC executive vice president for business operations, described cost-cutting and a lack of state funding over the last decades. Since 1990, state funding to the university increased 31 percent, while inflation increased 80 percent and enrollment grew more than 50 percent, Brostrom said.

The university is also spending less from core funds to educate students, according to Brostrom. The university spent $19,590 from its core funds per student last year, compared with when it spent $22,390 per student, adjusted for inflation, in 1990.

“You look at the funding increases in other areas, and we can show tangibly that we’re not on the radar,” said UC Regent Russell Gould.

Compared to the 31 percent increase in state funding for the UC system, K-12 education has received an increase of more than 200 percent in funding over the same time period, Brostrom said.

“We need to decide what we need to do here and we need to be damn vocal and we need to make it a reality,” said UC Regent Norman Pattiz. “We can take some lessons from the students.”

UC Regent-designate Rodney Davis said the state recently chose to help fund the California State University’s and California State Teachers’ pension funds but included no new funding for the UC retirement plan.

“There’s a perception that the UC retirement plan is not comparative with the CSU plan — that it is overly generous compared to the CSU plan,” Davis said. “I suspect that this is another one of these myths that can be effectively speared.”

The UC system has also already reduced spending on utilities by $38 million compared to five years ago through sustainability projects, Brostrom said.

Daniel Tutt is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @danielgtutt.