Budget deal funds extra freshmen

    More than 1,500 students originally told to wait until junior year to attend a UC campus have accepted a belated offer of freshman admission, according to university officials. However, the extra $12 million to enroll the eligible students who were previously denied entrance was one of few pleasant surprises for the university in a budget agreement between the state legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Under the approved budget, the University of California will lose more than 6 percent of its state funding, or nearly $200 million, bringing the number of consecutive years of state cuts to four. The money will be made up through program cuts and higher student fees adopted in May of 2004, according to UC spokesman Hanan Eisenman.

    “This is a very good day for students, the University of California and the state,” Eisenman said, explaining that the deal and a separate agreement signed between UC President Robert C. Dynes and the governor will allow the university to “stop the bleeding.”

    “It’s an endorsement of the importance of access to the UC [system],” he said.

    In addition to funding for students who were originally offered deferred enrollment under the “Guaranteed Transfer Option,” the final state budget restored $29 million in funding to academic outreach in K-12 schools, programs that UC officials have said were key to preserving access to the university. The system will use $4 million of the outreach funds to cover costs of offering freshman admissions to GTO students.

    The state will also provide previously threatened funding for UC Merced — the newest campus in the system scheduled to open in fall 2005 — and the university’s Institute of Labor and Employment.

    According to the UC Student Association, the final budget did not have everything students wanted, but was far better than Schwarzenegger’s original proposal, according to UCSA President Jennifer Lilla. During negotiations at the state’s capital, the group organized a student marathon around the legislative building to rally support among lawmakers. It also joined State Treasurer Phil Angelides and the California Faculty Association in a radio ad, featuring “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson, in support of higher education funding.

    Those efforts paid off, according to Lilla.

    “We have certainly claimed it as a student victory because I’m confident that if we had not done what we had done, we would be a lot worse off now,” she said.

    However, the university’s decision to offer freshman enrollment only to students who originally accepted the transfer guarantee on some campuses has angered Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who says UC officials misled the legislature about how it would use the extra money.

    Of the 1,700 students who received a GTO offer at UCSD, only the 10 percent who accepted were mailed letters in August saying they could enter as freshmen instead. Out of those 149 students, 78 took up the offer to enter as freshmen, according to university records.

    Because of the budget’s late timing, the 78 will not begin until winter quarter. As a result, they will lose their first- and second-year housing guarantees that are normally offered to freshmen, according to Housing and Dining Director Mark Cunningham.

    “I haven’t spoken with the campus as to what priority if any they might have next year, but I’m sure it will be reviewed — and I’ll personally commit to addressing it — due to the challenging circumstances that they have faced with the change in direction,” he stated in an e-mail.

    For those who did not accept the UC system’s original GTO offer in the spring, at issue was the amount of space and class offerings, and the system’s most crowded campuses — Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego — just could not find room for them, according to Mae W. Brown, assistant vice chancellor of admissions and enrollment services at UCSD.

    The rest of the students who received a GTO offer were offered freshman spaces at a different campus, Eisenman said. Some accepted and will attend a campus other than their first choice.

    Yet that was not what the university committed to doing during budget negotiations, according to a statement from Simitian.

    “Frankly, I’m disappointed that UC is not fully honoring its declared commitment to the legislature and to these students,” Simitian said, calling for state hearings later in September to examine the issue. “These kids were told they would have been accepted but for a lack of funds. The funds have been restored and the kids are still being denied admission [to the three campuses].”

    Despite the controversy, approximately 1,500 students of the nearly 8,000 who received the original deferred enrollment offer said by the August deadline that they would attend a UC campus their freshman year.

    Eisenman also said that under the 2004 compact with the state, the university expects to offer direct enrollment to all eligible applicants in the spring.

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