California assemblyman Pedro Nava accompanied the University of California Students Association at a press conference yesterday to decry recent UC budget cuts.
Nava focused his discussion on the UC Regents-approved budget cuts originally recommended by the governor that could, if not stopped by the state legislature, increase student fees and “defund” outreach programs, which forge connections between the University and K-12 schools. Congresswoman Lois Capps will appear at a similar event today at noon to discuss nationwide higher education issues.
Yesterday’s conference, which was held in front of the UCen at 1 p.m., attracted about 30 students. Nava also expressed concern over potential problems caused by increased fees for students unable to afford them. The UC Regents voted at their latest meeting to raise undergraduate fees $435 annually – an increase of 7 percent.
UCSA President Bill Shiebler said since the Regents approved the fee increase last month, it is up to the state legislature to halt the increase by paying for the expenses the increased student fees are meant to cover.
“It’s all about money,” Shiebler said. “California has a super-huge economy, and we’d be foolish to think the state can’t prioritize these issues.”
According to Nava, the amount of money available for student fee relief depends on the state’s total revenue, and revenue estimates are down from last year.
Nava said loopholes in tax laws are one area where reform could potentially serve to increase state revenue, which could then be used for education. He promised to lead a charge to identify and close such loopholes in the future, in hopes of increasing tax revenues.
“We’re going to be looking at each business,” Nava said. “If businesses are underpaying, we’ll close that loophole.”
He also accused Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of cutting funding for outreach programs because he believed Democrats would work to reinstate the cash flow.
“The governor cuts money from outreach programs because he knows that the Democrats will put it back,” Nava said.
First-year music major Paulina Abustan spoke at the conference. She said her ability to continue attending the university was in jeopardy due to the recent fee increases.
“I have a single working mother who is suffering for me to stay in college,” Abustan said. “We need academic programs to help students get into college.”
UCSA Statewide Organizing Director Christine Byon, however, said outreach programs are often threatened but do not end up being cut once the actual budget is passed.
“The state legislature typically does not completely cut academic prep funding,” Byon said.
Byon said UCSA will organize a trip to Sacramento on April 23 to lobby legislators to halt fee increases and augment funding to outreach programs.