Legislature nears finished budget with possible $25 million in extra UC funding

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A legislative committee unanimously passed a tentative budget proposal Tuesday, including $25 million in enrollment-growth funding for the UC system for the coming year.

The proposal combines two earlier budget plans from the state Senate and Assembly and slightly adapts the budget agreement reached between Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano. Both houses will vote on the compromise Monday, which will then be presented to Brown for approval.

Above the $119.5 million in new funds offered in the Brown-Napolitano agreement, the legislative committee put forward a number of conditions for the University of California to get an extra $25 million, including the enrollment of 5,000 new California residents and the redirection of funds from nonresident financial aid to resident students instead.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said that while the framework set up by Brown and Napolitano’s agreement put the UC system on a solid financial footing, it was still missing the funding necessary to provide sustained enrollment growth. According to Klein, the new proposal, even with the additional $25 million, would not be enough to enroll the 5,000 students it calls for.

“Not only is it impossible to enroll that many students by 2016, but it also sets a dangerous precedent of using private funds from out-of-state students to supplant the state’s plans,” Klein said. “Increasing enrollment is necessary to avert a critical-skills workforce shortage, but what we’ve seen so far falls short.”

Keely Bosler, chief deputy director of the California Department of Finance and Brown’s representative at the meeting, didn’t support the additional $25 million of funding but said the governor would be willing to support the provisions discussed in the rest of the UC budget proposal.

“Our approach for UC and CSUs over the last several years was to put in place a stable funding plan,” Bosler said during the meeting. “The real focus has been on sustainability.”

The committee also specified new reporting requirements and directed any new revenue generated from nonresident enrollment growth or supplemental tuition increases to supporting resident enrollment growth instead.

Kevin Cook, a research associate with the Public Policy Institute of California, stressed the importance of looking at graduation and enrollment rates over the minutiae of where money is being spent, on which he said the Legislature has so far been focused.

Additionally, the committee recommended a one-year cap on nonresident enrollment at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego.

Committee chair and state Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, while not opposing the enrollment cap, said nonresident enrollment provides important funding for the UC system. The UC budget has gone from 7 percent of the total state budget to 2 percent in approximately the last 35 years, Leno said, and much of the increase in nonresident enrollment and tuition has been used to make up for that gap.

“We all talk a good game that our UC system, our CSUs, our community colleges are our economic engine — that they’re what fuel our future,” Leno said during the meeting. “But are we really putting our money where our mouth is?”

Contact Trevor Greenan at [email protected].