UC regents discuss 2016-17 budget update

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents discussed an updated proposal of the university’s 2016-17 budget during its Wednesday meeting.

The budget update is “positive on a number of fronts” according to the budget report, as it stipulates an increase in overall funding from California Legislature. The UC system would receive $3.279 billion of ongoing general funds, $91 million of one-time funding from the General Fund and an additional $171 million from Proposition 2 — which California voters passed in 2014 to increase available funds for California’s rainy day reserve.

“It’s a good budget for California, and a strong budget for the university,” said UC Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom.

The one-time funds will help finance areas such as faculty diversity programs, deferred maintenance, as well as outreach and student support services for low-income and underrepresented minority students. Additionally, $22 million have been set aside for the UC Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, which would sponsor business training, incubation space and proof-of-concept support for UC startups.

The University Office of the President is already working on how the one-time funds will specifically be allocated, said UC President Janet Napolitano, adding that the UC system will use the money in the university’s best interest while also aligning with the state’s intent.

The final 2016-17 budget will designate $18.5 million of state funds for an additional 2,500 California students. This allocation operates on the condition that the university has taken the precautions to accommodate this increase in enrollment by May 1, 2017.

The increase is part of a six-year plan in which 5,000 new in-state students will be admitted to the UC system annually by the 2022-23 academic cycle. And though the state is pushing for the increased enrollment, some are concerned with how it will affect the UC standard of education.

“If we cannot maintain the quality of a UC education, then I ask, are we serving students well simply by providing more of them access to UC?” said chair of the Academic Senate Daniel Hare during the meeting.

Hare emphasized that the university needs to take into account the basic cost of instruction as well as the need for new infrastructure within the university. Without additional classrooms, laboratories and residence halls, Hare said, the UC system cannot both grow and maintain a high quality of education.

Regent Norman Pattiz, like Hare, was concerned with how the UC system will manage to accept more students and also remain competitive on an academic level. Likewise, Pattiz expressed concern regarding whether or not the proposed budget would be able to accomplish all it sets out to do under the state’s enrollment constraints.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Pattiz said. “How can we do all these things under the constraints that we currently are (under) by adding students, adding costs … and not seeing any sources of generating revenue to match that?”

One thing the budget does not include, however, is costs for graduate enrollment growth. Both houses in the California Legislature allocated funds for graduate enrollment, which were ultimately removed by the UC Conference Committee.

According to Brostrom, graduate students are essential to an undergraduate education as teaching assistants; therefore, the graduate population should also increase. By adding 5,000 undergraduate students without adequate amounts of graduate student instructors, Brostrom said, their educations will suffer.

“The inclusion of graduate students and state support in understanding their role is one that’s been neglected,” said Regent Russell Gould. “So I think we need to continue to champion that idea.”

Contact Brenna Smith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @bsmith_1853.