Conversations in the Capitol hint at a possible influx in state funding for the UC.
The California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee on education finance requested an additional $117.5 million for the UC General Fund on May 23. This increase is in addition to the $92.1 million proposed by the governor’s budget, which is currently in the negotiation process.
The Assembly’s proposed $117.5 million funding boost is currently different from the Senate’s version, which was approved earlier this month. These differences will first need to be reconciled into one cohesive budget before it appears before Gov. Jerry Brown for approval this June. If approved, the money will be available to the UCs on July 1.
Though nothing has been finalized, the proposed budget is evidence to many UC students and faculty that their lobbying efforts are paying off.
“What really goes unseen [in this process] is that many students from across the state […] were going to those Senate hearings and Assembly hearings and actually speaking in public comment,” said Davon Thomas, chief of staff for the Student Union Assembly vice president of external affairs. “This [budget approval] happened because students were always going to Sacramento.”
Students and faculty across all 10 UC campuses played a large role in advocating for this budget increase, in hopes they could avoid another tuition increase. Lobby Corps, an advocacy program that exists as a branch of student government at all UCs, facilitated multiple trips to Sacramento throughout this academic year. Students lobbied state representatives directly and spoke in the public comment section at subcommittee meetings.
The UC Office of the President was similarly relieved about the proposed budget.
“The University of California is pleased and grateful that our state legislators recognize how crucial it is to adequately fund the university,” said Stephanie Beechem, media specialist at the UC Office of the President (UCOP), in an email.
Both the Assembly and State Budget Subcommittee on Education specifically noted the funding boost be primarily allocated to deferred maintenance and offsetting proposed tuition increases. A vote on in-state tuition increases, originally scheduled for the January regents meeting, was tabled until the May meeting and later pushed further to the July meeting. However, the regents approved an out-of-state tuition increase of 2.5 percent on March 15.
Additional staff recommendations in the Assembly’s proposed budget will give the state the power to reduce the UC budget if tuition increases are implemented by the UC Board of Regents. If retracted, the money would be redirected to the California Student Aid Commission budget, which goes toward financial aid and scholarships.
The Assembly’s proposed budget also set new enrollment quotas, requiring 2,000 new California undergraduates and 500 new graduate students for the 2018-19 academic year, and 2,500 new California students for 2019-20. The staff recommendations state, “Should UC fail to achieve these enrollment targets, funding will be reduced by $10,000 per student below these targets.”
These requirements come amid many campus conversations regarding campus capacity, in terms of both housing and resources. Despite his enthusiasm for increased funding, Thomas doesn’t believe it should be contingent on enrollment increases.
“We are already underresourced as is and contingencies like that demonstrate to me that the UC doesn’t care about the students it already has, only quotas that are unrealistic. Not every UC can met this enrollment increase, especially UCSC,” Davon Thomas said in an email. “We shouldn’t be penalized for it.”
UCOP indicated that the need to boost student services, faculty hiring and facility and infrastructure maintenance are among the top priorities that necessitated the increased funding.
Beyond the need for funding, Davon Thomas pointed out the positive effect this budget increase could have for all students who have felt disenfranchised by the UC system with frequent budget cuts, overcrowding and tuition hikes.
“We’ve been asking for these resources for so long and it’s great that we’re finally getting them,” Thomas said. “[…] It’s a morale boost for students to see […] this actually works — lobbying, advocating actually works.”