Regents Drop Fee Increase From Budget Proposal

    The UC Board of Regents approved its 2009-10 budget proposal Nov. 20, requesting an increase of $755 million in funding from the state Legislature, including a $110 million sum to accommodate rising enrollment and avoid a previously considered 9.4 percent increase in undergraduate fees for the next academic year.

    The request for extra funding follows the regents’ original Nov. 19 proposal, which would have required an increase in tuition of at least $662 per year for in-state undergraduates, as well as new freshman enrollment limits.

    The regents said they were reluctant to restrict admission for qualified students, but conceded that with continuing state budget cuts the university cannot sustain any further student enrollment. The university currently enrolls 10,000 more students than can be supported by state funding, at a cost of $120 million from internal funding sources. In addition, the state’s per-student spending has fallen nearly 40 percent since 1990, from $15,860 to $9,560 currently, taking into account inflation and enrollment growth.

    “No one wants to curtail the opportunity [for admission], but how do we keep absorbing 5,000 more possible students when no one is giving us the money to pay for them?” UC President Mark G. Yudof asked in his address to the regents at last week’s meeting.

    Regent and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi said the decision to put the pressure of increasing student fees onto the state was a “tactical issue,” because simply accepting fee increases would mean prematurely surrendering, prior to the state-budget debates in January.

    According to UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez, the regents presented their budget proposal early to announce the university’s intentions to work with the state to reach a budget agreement.

    “The reason we’re asking the state for the money that we’re asking is that we recognize the state’s significant budget difficulties and we intend to work with the elected officials,” Vazquez said. “It’s important at the beginning of the budget process for the university to lay out a plan. As [President Yudof] said, what we wanted to do was forcefully articulate what it takes to keep the University of California great.”

    Currently, the university faces a possible $65.5 million midyear state funding cut, on top of the already-implemented $48 million cut. As a result, the university would be left to fund the $100 million in expenses demanded by enrollment growth and inflation. Chancellors from various campuses have reported delayed and reduced academic programs, limited student services, reduced course selection and decreased faculty recruitment.

    “The situation we face is serious, and some very tough choices are ahead of us,” Yudof said. “We need to preserve access and affordability to the greatest extent possible. We also need to ensure that we’re providing students access to an education of the high quality they expect of UC. And we can’t leave the state with the impression that we continue doing more and more with fewer and fewer resources.”

    The budget proposal also accounts for next year’s enrollment growth, core academic needs, compensation for faculty and staff, resumed contributions to the UC Retirement Plan and various recommended initiatives in graduate student support and research.

    If the Legislature refuses the regents’ request for extra funding, or if the state continues to cut from higher education, the university will likely increase student fees by at least 9.4 percent beginning next academic year.

    The regents are expected to finalize 2009-10 student tuition in March.

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