Two UC Office of the President executives held a panel in the Student Resource Building yesterday to discuss the recent controversial switch in revenue structure and field questions from students.
UCOP Executive Vice President of Business Operations Nathan Brostrom, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Peter Taylor and Associated Students President Harrison Weber addressed concerns from students about the newly imposed 1.6 percent UCOP tax on revenue-generating campus entities. Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher, Associate Vice Chancellor Ron Cortez and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young were also present and participated in discussion.
According to Brostrom, if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiatives on this November’s ballot fail to pass, the regents would turn to an increase in tuition on UC campuses.
“I think if it fails, it’s not going to be pretty. It will be similar to a $200 million cut to the UC and CSU,” Brostrom said. “We have no other place to go for core funding other than the state. We’re still trying to come out of a $700 million hole — a lot of it would be through tuition [and] through alternate revenue streams.”
Second-year political science major Jonathan Abboud said the new system makes ballot measures for student fees misleading to voters.
“Speaking as an individual who votes on student fees, by assessing them as campus expenses and expecting to pay this money back to the UCOP is in violation with the contract I make with the university by voting,” Abboud said. “By telling campuses that they have to pay more says that this contract is useless. It makes it seem like there is no point in voting for the fees, if it says that $5 are supposed to go to tutoring, for example, I expect that those $5 will go to tutoring. I would vote against something if I knew it was going to go to the UCOP.”
However, according to Brostrom, the policy change will have a much greater fiscal impact on the university’s largest revenue-generators than individual students.
“The medical centers were against this, as well as most of the research departments,” Brostrom said. “If total expenditures were $22 billion, medical centers account for about $9 billion and research is about $5 billion. The student portion is quite small.”
Although the program spares financial aid from taxation as a means of protecting low-income students, Weber said a levy on student service fees is detrimental to those who need them most.
“The money in our account may look like a big number, but we cannot just take from that,” Weber said. “Taking from that fund would affect student-initiated programs, funds and philanthropies.”
Brostrom said the amount of UC funding cut by the state in recent years requires a transition to a central, more cost-effective system of revenue collection.
“The University has been facing state cuts over the last three years — it’s a radical decline in state funding,” Brostrom said. “We have cut our staff by about a third in the past four years; we have a pretty slimmed-down budget. The biggest part of the [Office of the President] budget is campus research, and it makes sense to do a lot of stuff centrally.”