State Assembly member proposes 11th UC campus to focus on science, technology

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A state Assembly member has proposed a new UC campus with a focus on science and technology in the wake of proposed UC-wide tuition hikes and looming financial uncertainty for the public school system.

The bill, Assembly Bill 1483, was introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, and would require a study on the feasibility of establishing the campus, in addition to appropriating $50 million to the university to acquire land and help build the school.

Described as a “public version of Caltech,” the new campus would allow for more students to enter the UC system and promote learning in so-called STEAM subjects — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, according to a press release from Gatto’s office.

“Tech and creative jobs are the future, yet too many California students are unable to get the education they need here in California,” Gatto said in the press release.

Not long after the introduction of the bill, UC President Janet Napolitano’s announced before state legislators Tuesday that the UC system will not increase enrollment of California students and will cap enrollment of out-of-state students to UC Berkeley and UCLA at current levels.

132,383 California residents applied as either freshmen or transfer students to UC campuses for fall 2015 admission — an increase of about 3,505 people from last year, or 2.7 percent. About 61,500 non-California residents applied — an increase of about 7,100, or 13 percent.

Gatto said that in light of a state budget surplus this year, “public university should be our No. 1 priority.”

“That means lowering tuition and fees and thinking about the future of the university for the next 25 years,” Gatto said.

In November, the UC Board of Regents voted to implement a systemwide tuition hike hike that would increase fees 5 percent annually for the next five years to provide financial stability for the university, unless the university receives more state funding.

The state will only continue to offer $120 million, or a 4 percent increase in budget, for the next year if UC tuition remains the frozen. The tuition policy would raise about $459 million in additional funds.

While the financial stability and future funding for the university continues to be debated, Gatto said establishing a new campus offering an elite technical education for a public school fee would mean more California graduates filling a job market that require employees to be both creatively and technologically savvy.

“We all agree that there are qualified Californian students being turned down. … Isn’t the solution just staring us in the face?” Gatto said. “We need to expand the system.”

The proposed school would be the 11th UC campus; UC Merced opened in 2005 and is presently the newest UC campus.

UC spokesperson Brooke Converse said due to the amount of research it will take to analyze the bill, it will take some time to comment on the proposal.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ayoonhendricks.