UC students advocate for increased funding at state budget subcommittee hearing

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Students from across the UC system attended a hearing held by the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance on Tuesday afternoon to lobby for increased state funding for the university.

About 30 students from various UC campuses were set to speak during the hearing’s public comment, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein. She said the student-led lobbying campaign is part of a combined effort between the University of California Student Association, or UCSA, and the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, to campaign legislators for increased state investment in the university.

“While it’s the height of irony for students to miss their classes while advocating for those classes to be properly funded by the state, we’re ready to show our legislators that we will hold them accountable for decades of disinvestment,” said Varsha Sarveshwar, the ASUC’s “Fund the UC” campaign manager, in a public statement released by the ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President, or EAVP.

Klein said the alliance has grown from both organizations’ shared dissatisfaction with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to increase the higher education budget by only 3 percent — which is about a $32 million deficit from the 4 percent increase originally negotiated by UCOP.

Since the UC Board of Regents voted in January to postpone their vote on tuition hikes, UCSA and UCOP have created a partnership based on a mutual understanding of the UC’s need for increased state funding, according to UCSA President Judith Gutierrez.

“We’re trying to hold both institutions accountable,” Gutierrez said, adding that the UCSA, in addition to advocating for increased state funding, intends to maintain transparency in the allocation of funds at both the state and UC level.

While UC Berkeley’s enrollment has increased by 5,000 students over the past decade, the state general fund support for the campus has dropped by about a third, according to the EAVP press release.

This decline in state funding has resulted in a 300 percent UC-wide increase in tuition over the past 15 years, according to the press release. Klein said tuition now accounts for more of the university’s core education budget than state dollars. The press release stated that the regents are “likely to vote on tuition increases” should the state fail to increase its allocated funding.

According to Klein, UCOP is pushing for an ongoing funding request totaling $105 million, which includes funds to alleviate the impact of recent enrollment growth on students and for enrollment expansion and prevention of increases to tuition and student fees in 2018-19.

“We’re working with the students and fully support their effort to increase state funding,” Klein said. “We usually do it without such vigorous support from students, so this is terrific.”

Contact Michele Meltzer at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @michele_meltzer.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the UC system has increased enrollment by 5,000 over the past decade. In fact, enrollment at UC Berkeley has increased by 5,000 in that time.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that the state general fund support during this time for the UC has dropped by about a third. In fact, state funding for the campus has dropped about a third.