CA Assemblyman Calls for New Tech-Based UC Campus

California Assemblyman Mike Gatto announced his proposal for a new University of California campus in a press release on March 2.

The new school, whose location is not specified in the bill, would focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics as areas of study.

The legislation, titled AB 1483, is comprised of two parts. The first would initiate the process of planning and building a new campus by pushing the UC system to study the feasibility of the project and potential locations. The Assembly bill further requests the appropriation of $50 million for land acquisition and initial building costs.

Gatto, a Democrat from Glendale, called for a UC campus primarily concentrated on the STEM fields but that also provides an interdisciplinary education in the arts.

In his press release, Gatto claimed that graduates of this background are in growing demand within the workforce, but that this type of education is not always readily available in the state.

“Tech and creative jobs are the future, yet too many California students are unable to get the education they need here in California,” Gatto said.  “It is time for the legislature to prioritize higher education with bold moves, ones that will make a meaningful difference in the educational levels and skillsets of Californians for generations to come.”

Gatto further argued that the UC system is currently overcrowded, and that this has resulted in a drop in recent admissions.

The press release cites acceptance rates for UC Berkeley, which had over 40,000 applicants and less than 9,000 acceptances in 2014, to support this claim.

Gatto compared the proposed new campus to a public version of the California Institute of Technology, which the U.S. News and World report ranks as the 10th best university in the nation. According to the press release, the new UC campus has the potential to save students money who would otherwise pay Caltech a tuition of at least $120,000 over four years.

However, Gatto’s proposal for a new UC campus comes at a time when Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano are still in the middle of negotiating the future of the UC system’s funding.

UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC regents have decided to raise tuition fees as much as five percent in each of the next five years if state revenue cannot meet the system’s funding demands.

In terms of how to fund the creation of a new UC campus, Gatto told the Los Angeles Times that the state’s budget now has a surplus that he believes could help. 

“We have the resources for the first time in a long, long time,” Gatto said. 

University Office of the President Media Specialist Brooke Converse told the UCSD Guardian that the UCOP has not yet taken a stance on the bill.

“The bill is currently being analyzed and we do not have a position at this time,” Converse said.

Gatto said that he would prefer the location of the new campus to be in the Los Angeles area or near Silicon Valley, but he also acknowledged that the decision of where the school would be built ultimately belongs to the UC regents.