Regents consider proposals to eliminate fee hike

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SAN FRANCISCO — At their Thursday meeting at UCSF, the UC Regents revisited the university’s 2015-16 budget, discussing plans from the state government that would keep tuition flat.

The board discussed two plans that could alleviate the university’s planned tuition increase for California residents by increasing nonresident supplemental tuition and enacting cost-cutting measures. It also formally approved a committee to reduce the university’s cost structure. Two students were escorted out after climbing a barrier to deliver a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano.

The university’s budget plan accounts for additional revenue from the state government as well as a 5 percent tuition increase, while Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed California budget makes state funding increases contingent on the university reversing its decision to raise tuition.

Nathan Brostrom, the university’s chief financial officer, said the governor’s budget would cause a $165 million gap in the university budget. Brown’s plan holds tuition for both residents and nonresidents as well as the number of nonresident students enrolled in the university at 2014-15 levels.

According to Brostrom, this would leave 43 percent of the expenditures in the university’s budget plan unfunded. He went on to discuss two funding proposals in the California legislature that would freeze tuition and increase enrollment for California residents.

One plan raises the nonresident supplemental tuition by almost 18 percent and eliminates the Middle Class Scholarship program. It would enable the enrollment of 5,000 new resident undergraduates and provide money for increased class offerings.

The second plan increases resident enrollment by 2,000 and raises nonresident supplemental tuition by about 22 percent. It also proposes increasing the amount of teaching required of faculty and limits increases in executive salaries.

“I view both of these as promising starts,” Brostrom said.

Regent Eddie Island, however, expressed concern about the proposal to increase faculty teaching, claiming an intrusion into the board’s traditional purview.

As public comment concluded, a small group of students stood up and began shouting in unison to disrupt the meeting. Two students who had spoken earlier — Spencer Pritchard, a senior at UC Berkeley, and Jaimeson Cortez, a junior at UCLA — climbed over the barrier to enter the section where the regents were sitting in order to deliver a list of their demands to Napolitano.

They were held and escorted out, but were later released after receiving a stay-away order. Napolitano had the letter delivered to her.

“We’re still here and we’re going to continue going on the offensive,” Pritchard said.

The board also formally approved a committee comprised of Napolitano and Brown — referred to by some as the “committee of two” — charged with examining the cost structure of the university.

“It’s my absolute conviction that the committee will achieve compromise and move the tuition discussion forward,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, ex officio regent, after the meeting. He added that he thought more funding from the state’s general fund would be possible.

Complaining that two people can’t make decisions for 240,000 students, student Regent Sadia Saifuddin said after the meeting that the committee’s actions could “fundamentally reshape the university.”

She added that she believes the board doesn’t want to raise tuition, and that the governor doesn’t want to support higher education.

“I think the main responsibility falls on the state,” Saifuddin said.

Sahil Chinoy is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @sahilchinoy_dc.