National Beat Reporter
Governor Jerry Brown’s newly revised budget plan seeks to stave off tuition increases by increasing funding for public higher education.
Significant adjustments to the budget include one-time increases of $100 million to the University of California general fund for deferred maintenance projects, $55 million to UC psychiatric graduate medical programs, and $1.2 million to support anti-bias training for UC faculty, staff, and student leaders.
The UC Office of the President (UCOP) released a statement expressing appreciation for Brown’s additional funding commitments. In particular, the one-time funding increases for deferred maintenance and psychiatric graduate medical programs will help the UC address urgent infrastructure projects, and meet the needs of Californians in rural and medically underserved areas, respectively.
Brown’s revised state budget plan also maintains a three percent funding increase to the UC’s core educational budget, which was outlined in the original budget plan in January.
UCOP notes that the increase will help enhance educational quality throughout the UC by supporting teaching, campus safety, and other needed services.
Additionally, the budget plan assumes the release of $50 million in funds withheld by the state from the UC, pending reforms that addressed last year’s critical state audit report, revealing the UCOP had failed to disclose $175 million in funds. The release of the funds also depends on the UC adopting reforms that boost its number of transfer students.
Kristin Hsu, External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA), said that while she is pleased that Brown has provided the UC with $100 million for deferred maintenance needs, the UC is still in need of additional funding to address problems that have arisen because of mandated over-enrollment.
Hsu also said that additional funding is needed to support resources and services that are essential for student success, such as mental health counseling and academic counseling, and that lack of this funding displays Brown’s disinterest in higher education.
“The budget is a reflection of the state’s priorities. Clearly, Governor Brown does not see public higher education as a priority,” Hsu said.
Judith Gutierrez, UC Student Association President, though appreciative of the increased funding, criticized the budget’s failure to provide more funds for support services, counselors, and tenure-track faculty. She asserts that more funding should go to higher education as the state had a $9 billion surplus in its budget.
“We cannot think of a better way to invest in California’s future than to adequately invest in the current generation of UC students,” Gutierrez said.
The revised budget plan also proposes including language that would allow the transferring of funds from the UC’s general-purpose revenues to the Cal Grant and Middle Class Scholarship Program, if the UC raises tuition.
Michael Cohen, Director of the California Department of Finance, said in a press conference that the language would ensure that the state would not have to increase the amount of funds for the two programs if UC were to increase tuition, on top of the additional funds they are already giving to the UC general fund.
Hsu, in addition to asserting that more can be done by the state to fund UC, claims that the state must acknowledge how disinvestment in higher education is detrimental to California and its future.
“We need a dedicated revenue source for public higher education, and that source should not be students,” Hsu said.
Gutierrez, in a statement to The Bottom Line, also noted that the state and the UC should rethink the current public higher education model in order to, “develop sustainable funding that doesn’t rely on student tuition and fees.”
UCOP states that it will continue to try to secure additional state funding and remains hopeful that the state legislature and the governor will provide sufficient resources to guarantee that the UC can continue providing students with a high-quality education.
The state legislature and governor will have until June 15 to come to a final agreement over next year’s budget.