UC regents announce undocumented student funding, discuss yearly state budget

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The UC Board of Regents convened Wednesday in Sacramento to discuss updates to the 2016-17 state budget caused by growth in enrollment and extended retirement benefits for UC employees.

Before discussion began on the budget, UC President Janet Napolitano announced a three-year commitment of $8.4 million per year for systemwide undocumented student support. Of this annual fund, $5 million will go toward the university’s DREAM Loan Program, $2.5 million will go toward student services and $900,000 will go toward legal services.

Incoming ASUC senator and campus undocumented student Benyamin Mohd Yusof expressed appreciation toward this initiative and said it would greatly aid the development of undocumented student resources throughout the UC system.

Yusof added, however, that he was concerned about the allocation of $5 million to the DREAM Loan Program. According to Yusof, many undocumented students are not guaranteed the resources to pay back loans after graduating because of the uncertainty surrounding the employment of undocumented youth.

“I think it’s really essential for the university to prioritize financial resources through grants, rather than loans,” Yusof said.

Updates on the 2016-17 state budget were presented to the regents by Debora Obley, the university’s associate vice president for budget analysis and planning.

The university has met conditions for the release of $96 million in state funding to cover unfunded liabilities in the new UC retirement plan, as well as $25 million in funding to facilitate enrollment growth, according to Obley.

At the meeting, Obley announced a new proposal from Assemblymember Kevin McCarty that emerged during Tuesday’s state assembly budget subcommittee hearing. McCarty’s plan calls for an enrollment increase of 30,000 undergraduates over six years, as well as for an enrollment decrease of 1,700 nonresident undergraduates for each year.

Additionally, the proposal appropriates $3 million toward the establishment of an office to oversee university budget.

Obley emphasized the university’s opposition to this proposal and said she would collaborate with McCarty in the next few weeks to express university concerns.

State Legislature will meet by June 15 to adopt a final version of the budget, after which it will go to Gov. Jerry Brown to sign by June 30, Obley said.

Regent Eloy Oakley said he was glad that the state was considering enrollment growth from a serious perspective. Regent John Perez, however, said the proposal represented a strong stance from the budget subcommittee on tension and distrust between the state and university.

“We have really less than three weeks to get from the position of talking past each other to getting some resolution here,” Perez said.

At the meeting, the regents also heard a breakdown of the 2015 accountability subreport on UC diversity and preliminarily approved the establishment of a policy to enhance student-athlete welfare.

The regents will reconvene Thursday to discuss a board governance restructure, among other items.

Harini Shyamsundar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.