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2015 February 4 - 05:33 am

Brown Stands Firm on University Funding Amid Tuition Talk

Community Colleges Fare Better Under California Governor’s Spending Blueprint

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown is resisting pressure to offset a tuition increase planned for University of California campuses and once again called upon the nation’s largest public university system to rethink how it does business instead of making students and their families pay more.

The governor released a state spending plan that boosts the $2.8 billion part of the UC system’s budget that goes for educating students by a little under $120 million, or about $100 million less than university officials said was needed to accommodate the number of qualified students seeking admission and to keep faculty salaries competitive without a 5 percent tuition hike in the fall.

“Public universities require public support,” UC President Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, said in a statement.

Brown said the 4 percent boost he is earmarking for the university was “not chump change” and that he didn’t provide as much funding as the university wanted because California’s budget is already stretched by debt payments and growing costs.

“It’s precariously balanced, and it’s going to get even more challenging as we get down the road,” he said.

The governor’s proposal, which came close to meeting the funding request of California’s 112 community colleges, also fell short of what the California State University sought. The plan ensures that higher-education funding will remain a contentious topic in Sacramento in coming months.

Brown said the increases he was promising the two university systems were contingent on their leaders not raising tuition. The University of California’s governing board late last year agreed to hike tuition for California residents by $612 to $12,804 for the 2015-16 school year and by as much as 5 percent in each of the following four years unless the state kicked in more money.

Although Brown said he expects the Board of Regents to reverse its decision, University of California Student Association President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, a student at UC Merced, was not optimistic.

“I honestly don’t think they will be willing to play his game, and he is definitely not playing their game,” Kuoch-Seng said. “The ball is in both their courts, and students are still in the middle.”

Legislative leaders have proposed various solutions, including significantly increasing the rates for out-of-state students and redirecting funds from a new scholarship program for families making up to $150,000 a year.

The California State University system would also get $120 million more next year under Brown’s budget, $97 million less than Chancellor Timothy White said was needed for enrollment growth at the 23 CSU campuses and to meet the governor’s goal of increasing the number of students who complete their degrees.

Unlike Napolitano and the UC regents, CSU officials have not yet discussed raising tuition.

California’s huge community college system and K-12 public schools, which endured crippling cuts during the economic downturn, fared better under Brown’s budget blueprint.

The governor earmarked an increase of 8 percent, or about $800 million, for the state’s 112 community colleges. The system’s chancellor, Brice Harris, called it California’s best community college budget in years.

He said it would create space for an additional 45,000 more students.

Brown’s proposal boosts average per-pupil expenditures in K-12 schools and includes $1.1 billion for implementation of Common Core, the new math and reading benchmarks adopted by much of the nation. It also provides $4 billion under a new funding formula that channels additional money to schools with high numbers of students with low family incomes, living in foster care or learning to speak English.

School districts with the most disadvantaged students will experience the biggest gains, but some higher-income districts could still have a hard time maintaining their current level of programming, said Bill Lucia, former executive director of the state board of education and current president of EdVoice, a nonprofit organization.

“The new money is not going back to the way it used to be,” Lucia said. “There will be this unevenness.”

Associated Press writer Fenit Nirappil in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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