UC regents discuss updates on state budget, possible additional funding

Kevin Cheung/Staff

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents discussed the details of the final 2015-16 state budget during its Wednesday meeting, including changes to the UC pension plan and potential additional state funding.

As approved by the regents in May after months of negotiation between UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown, the state will provide an increased funding of 4 percent annually over the next four years — a total increase of $507 million. In return, the framework stipulates that resident undergraduate tuition must remain frozen for two years.

“This marks a new period of financial stability and predictability sought in the November plan,” according to an update on the 2015-16 state budget. The three-day meeting, which began Tuesday, is taking place at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

At the meeting, the regents focused on state funding that remains contingent, such as the $25 million contingent on the university enrolling an additional 5,000 undergraduate residents in the 2016-17 school year compared with in 2014-15. Public comment focused on pension reforms necessitated by the state budget agreement.

Members of the California Nurses Association criticized the deal’s pension plan, expressing concerns that the plan will reduce the quality of employees at the university.

“This plan to erode our pensions is unnecessary,” one nurse said during public comment. “After our years of hard work, we deserve retirement dignity.”

The budgetary framework includes changes to the university’s pension plan, including a cap on pensionable income for new UC employees at $117,020 per year — a reduction from the existing cap of $265,000. New employees will be able to choose a defined contribution plan as a retirement option instead of the capped defined-benefits plan.

In return for the changes, the state will provide, over a three-year period, $436 million in one-time funds to pay for the university’s pension liability.

Pension plans are a recruitment tool to keep nurses at hospitals, according to Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.

“(The university would) put the retirement security of people who devote their life to work for the university in the hands of Wall Street,” Stenhouse said.

Also during the meeting, in a closed session, the regents discussed salary adjustments for certain members of the senior management. The discussion will be continued in an open session on compensation Thursday.

The regents also reviewed efforts to enhance transfer initiatives and reduce time to degree, including reviewing the number of upper-division units required to obtain a degree, identifying three-year degree pathways and piloting alternative pricing models for summer sessions.

“We need to continue to advocate in Sacramento about what the university is and what we contribute … both in terms of the educational product (and) also the research engine and health-care engine,” Napolitano said at the meeting. “It’s a continual campaign.”

Staff writer Tianyi Dong contributed to this report.

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