University of California officials announced Tuesday they have come to an agreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that would slow proposed student fee hikes and eliminate future enrollment caps, in exchange for the UC absorbing next year’s proposed spending cut.

In addition, University officials agreed to accountability requirements, including meeting enrollment objectives, preparing annual reports regarding student success and ensuring that class offerings are organized more efficiently to allow students to graduate within four years.

However, the UC Student Association, which represents 200,000 students at ten UC campuses, strongly denounced the plan as selling out students.

“The only individuals who might find this agreement acceptable are those who negotiated the deal behind close doors, without input from faculty, staff, the majority of administrators and, most of all, students,” Matt Kaczmarek, UCSA president, wrote in a statement. “UCSA is extremely troubled that the administration gave up the fight before it was over. The truth is students were betrayed by those who were supposed to protect higher education.”

UC president Robert Dynes and California State University Chancellor Charles Reed agreed to the plan to restore some state money to outreach programs, allow for future enrollment growth and provide for increased faculty and staff salaries.

“After years of deep budget cuts with no end in sight, this compact brings the promise of renewed fiscal stability for public universities in California,” Dynes wrote in a statement. “Under the compact, UC will receive funding to preserve its internationally acclaimed academic programs, to provide broad accessibility for promising California students, and to sustain its deep impact on the economy, health and quality of life of California.”

Student fees will still rise, according to the agreement, but the increases will be levied at predictable intervals. Undergraduate fees will increase an average of 10 percent each year for the next three years.

Graduate student fees, which were slated increase by 40 percent in the 2004-2005 year under the governor’s original budget proposal, will be raised more gradually. Graduate students will pay a 20 percent higher fee in the 2004-2005 year and then a 10 percent higher fee each year after that for the next two years.

According to the agreement, state money becoming available in the 2005-2006 fiscal year will guarantee a minimum annual growth rate of 3 percent for university employee salaries and other cost increases until the 2007-2008 fiscal year. The state will allot funding for a 4 percent annual growth rate after that. The state will also chip in enough money to support an annual enrollment growth rate of at least 5,000 students systemwide.

As a result of the state’s budget crisis, the UC schools were for the first time unable to enroll all students meeting eligibility requirements for the incoming 2004 class. Students who were turned away this year were offered a guaranteed UC-transfer option if they spent two years at a community college first.

Under the new agreement, UC will also reserve between 20 percent and 33 percent of new fee revenue to support financial aid.

The UC Board of Regents will vote on approving the 2004-2005 budget and fee levels at its May 19-20 meeting. In addition, the state legislature must also approve Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, which includes his agreement with UC officials.

-Nexus Staff Report