UC Regents Discuss Fiscal Future at Meeting

The regents talked budget and a possible expansion of online classes at their meeting last week

New higher education initiatives and discussions regarding the 2014 University of California fiscal year budget took precedence at last week’s UC Board of Regents meeting, held at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay Conference Center.

The meeting took place on Jan. 22 to Jan. 23 and included a UC budget overview presentation by Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom and Vice President Patrick J. Lenz.

The presentation highlighted concerns regarding funding that Gov. Jerry Brown allocated to the UC in his recent 2014 state budget proposal.

According to the state budget, the UC will receive $142.2 million in spending increases, a 5-percent increase from last year.

Within the $12.4 billion allocated in the state budget toward higher education, the UC system is set to receive approximately $3 billion, or 20 percent.

The Board of Regents said, however, that without additional federal funding, this allocated amount of money is not enough to support continued UC reinvestment in terms of enrollment, research and financial aid.

“After years of severe budget cuts, the university is essentially being asked to make further cutbacks in order to meet obligations,” Brostrom and Lenz said in their presentation.

While the 2014 budget reflects the federal sequestration repeal that would have caused deeper funding cuts, UC Associate Vice President for Federal Governmental Relations Gary Falle mentioned that the current allocated funds only show a marginal increase from previous years due to inflation.

“While we hope that there would be a lot more investment in education, research and healthcare, the [Fiscal Year 2014] budget could have been much worse for UC if the lower funding targets of sequestration were repealed,” Falle said. “A flat budget could have turned into significant cuts.”

The UC Regents continued by discussing the recent achievements in UC online education — championed by Brown —since the introduction of the online cross-campus course pilot system in November 2013.

According to a report by UC Provost Aimee Dorr, the pilot system has been effective, providing students with access to courses from other campuses and opening up possibilities to potentially cut faculty costs.

“UC’s approach to online education, including participation with Massive Open Online Courses has been measured and thoughtful, with the goal of maintaining UC-quality while striving to improve access to courses at all campuses,” Dorr said in the written report.

The meeting also marked the first collaborated gathering between recently elected UC President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris. The three heads of higher education met to discuss cooperation in redeveloping the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education.

“There is much that we can and should be doing together as we look at the master plan, and really envision what is our set of goals for higher education in California,” Napolitano said.

The three leaders hope to focus on high school and middle school outreach, as well as create a streamlined online Internet portal for facilitating the transfer student process.

The regents also announced the appointment of Canadian investment manager Jagdeep Singh Bachher as the regents’ new chief investment officer and as vice president investments, following an international search in July.

Bachher will assume his position in Oakland beginning April 1, and will work closely with UC Chief Financial Officer Peter J. Taylor to manage the UC’s $80 billion investment assets.

“I’m grateful and humbled by this phenomenal opportunity to join the University of California,” Bachher said. “I know that working to ensure the health and longevity of the university’s financial assets has a direct impact on UC’s educational, research and public service mission.”

Bachher’s annual base salary of $615,000 was also approved at last week’s meeting. His salary will be will be funded using non-state means.