January 29, 2013 > Calif. colleges see more money in Brown's budget
Calif. colleges see more money in Brown's budget
By Terence Chea, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP), Jan 11 - After years of difficult budget cuts, Gov. Jerry Brown is offering more money to California's public colleges and universities, but in return he wants them to hold down costs, expand online learning and stop raising tuition, which has increased sharply in recent years.
The Democratic governor released a 2013-2014 budget plan this week that for the first time in years increases funding for K-12 schools and higher education, thanks in part to voter approval of his Proposition 30 tax initiative, increasing sales and income taxes, in November.
College and university officials all welcome the increased funding and had no immediate plans to increase tuition.
The University of California and California State University systems would each receive an additional $250 million, which includes $125 million promised for not raising tuition this academic year. California Community Colleges, which has 112 campuses, would get a $197 million boost.
Brown proposed a plan to steadily increase funding for the three systems over the next four years, but only if they freeze fees at current levels, noting that UC and CSU tuition has nearly doubled over the past five years.
The governor said he plans to attend meetings of the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees over the next two weeks to urge university administrators to spend within their means.
"The people in the university are going to have to find a way to do the same thing with fewer growing resources than they're used to," Brown told reporters Thursday. "Can we turn down this relentless increase in spending that is so much higher than the cost of living?"
Brown wants colleges and universities to expand the number of online courses they offer to reduce costs and allow more students to get the classes they need to graduate.
His budget plan calls for UC and CSU to each spend $10 million to develop digital versions of high-demand courses - and $17 million for the community college system to develop a "virtual campus" of 250 new online courses.
"Deploy your teaching resources more effectively," Brown said. "We want more kids to be able to get through school quicker."
Brown's budget proposes caps on the number of classes students can take at in-state tuition levels, a policy aimed at encouraging so called super seniors to complete their degrees faster.
UC and CSU students would be limited to 270 quarter units or 180 semester units - 50 percent more than the minimums needed to graduate. Community college students would be limited to 90 units. Those thresholds would fall in subsequent years.
Although Brown isn't offering as much as they asked for, college leaders said they're pleased his budget would begin to reverse years of cuts that have led to steep tuition hikes, reduced enrollment and reductions to academic programs.
UC officials noted the 10 campus system currently receives about $1 billion less - about 30 percent - in state funding than it received five years ago. Tuition increases only made up 38 percent of that shortfall, with the rest covered by spending cuts, restructuring operations, fundraising and other revenue sources, said Patrick Lenz, UC's vice president for budget and capital resources.
"We share Gov. Brown's interest in stabilizing tuition, and will explore every opportunity to do so," but the university must also maintain the quality of its education, research and health care programs, Lenz said.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the governor's budget "heads us in the right direction," but he noted that state funding for Cal State also fell more than 30 percent over the past five years.
"We still face many fiscal challenges and will continue efforts to operate efficiently and effectively," White said in a statement Thursday.
CSU officials said Friday it's still early in the university budgeting process, but at this point there have been no discussions about raising tuition this fall.
"Tuition is really the last resort," said CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp. "We wouldn't increase tuition unless we were forced to, and there's no real reason to do so at this point."
State lawmakers also warned colleges and universities against raising tuition when the state gives them more money.
UC and CSU cannot "come back and find ways to raise fees on students when the circumstances don't warrant it, and clearly the circumstances don't warrant it," said Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.
Associated Press Writer Juliet Williams contributed to this report from Sacramento.