The UC Board of Regents met yesterday at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center for the second of a three-day meeting to discuss, among other items, a proposal to fund the UC which includes a controversial increase in student tuition by five percent annually over five years.
Numerous students from all 10 campuses spoke during public forum, which lasted an hour, to decry the proposed tuition hike and criticize the Regents for using students as “pawns” by threatening to implement the plan as a negotiation tool in requesting more state funding. The Committee on Long Range Planning voted to approve a Long-Term Stability Plan for Tuition and Financial Aid that included the tuition increase, meaning it will go to a vote by the full Board of Regents today. Other items discussed include a progress report on administrative efficiency, a long-term plan for Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition (PDST) and the approval of a three-year financial sustainability plan.
Abraham Galvan, External Affairs Vice President for the Associated Students of UC Riverside, said the UC’s leadership has not adequately explored funding alternatives, particularly those proposed by students.
“Students, for example, have advocated for an oil severance tax … Proposition 13 reform to close property tax loopholes for big businesses … [and] reduced prison spending that could go to higher education. The UC system in the meantime has remained silent,” Galvan said.
According to Galvan, claims by UC administration that the tuition increase is necessary in order sustain the University do not address issues surrounding state’s deprioritization of UC funding.
“This plan is being marketed as a stability plan that is supposed to look into the long term plan of the UC but it is unsustainable to not look at real funding solutions at the root cause,” Galvan said. “The UC should not be using students as political pawns to engage in a toe-to-toe battle with the governor. That’s not what we are.”
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299 Political Director Elizabeth Ortega said the University could avoid raising tuition by looking at alternative methods of saving money, such as capping executive pay at $500,000, reducing pension plans to those used as California State Universities and hiring contractors as full-time workers.
“It’s time for a new approach, and that must start with an examination of how you are spending the public’s money. Today, we’re asking you to postpone this vote,” Ortega said. “Stop asking us for more. It’s time you start looking at yourselves.”
Later during public comment, students in attendance began chanting “Hey hey! Ho ho! Napolitano has got to go!” targeted toward UC President Janet Napolitano.
In Napolitano’s opening remarks to the Board of Regents, she addressed the proposed tuition increase portion of the Long Range Financial Plan, which outlines the University’s long-range budget model, and said the plan has been modeled in a way that does not allow for funding alternatives. Napolitano also said she rejected, among other items, options involving increasing the enrollment of out-of-state students, capping the enrollment of California students, reducing the level of financial aid the University provides and reducing the number of course offerings at each campus.
During the Committee on Educational Policy, the Board discussed the current status of philanthropic support for the UC, then approved an action item to amend the Regent’s policy on giving financial aid to certain students exempt from paying non-resident tuition in accordance with AB 540, which is a law exempting non-resident students who attended and graduated high school in California from paying non-resident tuition.
The Board then convened the Committee on Long Range Planning, which heard two discussion items before discussing action items to approve the controversial five-year financial plan including tuition increase.
UC Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom presented a report to the board detailing that a cost-cutting campaign titled “Working Smarter: Systemwide Administrative Efficiencies at the University of California” had saved the UC system over $660 million since its implementation in 2010. According to Brostrom, the four percent increase in state funding this year as detailed in Governor Jerry Brown’s 2013-14 budget bill is a contribution that generates roughly $120 million dollars this year, would only cover 42 percent of the costs associated with UC’s core funds and would not be sufficient to address the UC’s inflationary costs or mandatory costs.
“That is not enough to fund our basic needs,” Brostrom said. “Let alone do the reinvestment and increase enrollment as we would like to do.”
According to Brostrom, the state’s level of support for the UC depends on whether or not the state values the University and higher education over other investments.
“The state has money and this has been a question of priorities,” Brostrom said. “In the last 25 years, the state’s general fund has grown by 160 percent, and where has that money gone? … The area that increasingly gets squeezed out is the discretionary part of the budget, which includes UC. … We’ve only grown 30 percent.”
Brostrom went on to say that state money allocated for corrections has, in the same period of time, grown 250 percent, and for K-12 education, over 200 percent. Brostrom also said that up until 1990 the state had paid a large portion of the UC Retirement Plan (UCRP), but that now the UC and its employees have been left to pay steep increases in their own pension fund contribution.
Regent Hadi Makarechian, chair of the Regents’ Committee on Grounds and Buildings, asked Brostrom during discussion if the tuition hike would be necessary if the state were to increase its contribution to UCRP. According to Brostrom, an increase in state contributions to UCRP would stave off tuition hikes for the next several years.
“If the state were to fund that, we would have $400 million dollars and absolutely would not have to raise tuition for several years,” Brostrom said.
According to Governor Jerry Brown, his four percent increase in state funding this year, an amount of roughly $120 million, along with $80 million in extra funds the UC identified through cost saving initiatives, is sufficient enough to cover costs without necessitating a tuition increase.
“I am gonna vote against the five percent tuition increase,” Brown said. “That’s 200 million in new money that you do have for this core program so there is money available … 200 million is quite adequate … I don’t think you’ve considered alternatives to the structure over time that could actually lower costs.”
Brown then proposed the creation of a select committee be placed on the agenda for the January Regent’s meeting, which would be charged with developing proposals to reduce the University’s cost structure. Brown said he and Napolitano would be responsible for selecting the committee members.
The committee would be responsible for investigating five initiatives described by Brown. The initiatives include identifying ways to have students graduate in three years, implementing consistent lower division requirements for students across all campuses, offering a “wide range” of online courses for large amounts of students, expanding policies that grant units to students who demonstrate learning outside the classroom and to “delineate” cross-campus collaborations to provide a “differentiation” among campuses.
Brown also said that in actuality the UC has more money this year than it did during the 2007-2008 academic year.
“The University does have close to seven billion, and seven years ago it was more like 5.5 billion,” Brown said. “Now that’s been made up mostly by the students in tuition, but if you look at the overall budget, its one billion more than you had before.”
Brostrom confirmed Brown’s numbers but argued that other factors including inflation, financial aid obligations and the UCRP must be accounted for considering the extra money Brown discussed.
“You have to adjust for several things that are part of our mission but do nothing for the University … When you reduce that, our core funds per student in nominal dollars has gone down … 13 percent,” Brostrom said. “So I fundamentally disagree with the notion that we have more funding per student. We actually have a lot less funding per student than we had in 07-08.”
Outside of the meeting, Regent George Kieffer, who supported the proposed tuition hike, said he thought the proposed tuition increase might ultimately be less than the five percent proposed.
“If the state doesn’t give any more money than what is presently planned, this tuition cap at five percent would go into play. But there’s a long way between now and the budget,” Keiffer said. “They don’t even finalize the budget until after May. My understanding is that there is a billion dollars more than they originally projected. So there’s hope.”
In response to several speakers who argued the University broke its promise to freeze tuition, Vice President of Budget and Capital Resources at UCOP Patrick Lenz said no such formal agreement was actually agreed upon between the Governor’s office and UCOP. However, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said he disagreed, arguing details of the alleged agreement have circulated widely in both reports from the Legislative Analysts’ Office and public media without incident.
“You may acknowledge by the way, as the CSU did, that we needed more money, that it wasn’t enough, but don’t suggest there wasn’t a ‘wink wink nod’ agreement because we had written about it and talked about it and you guys never publicly corrected it; and now you’re only publicly correcting it to defend yourselves against the accusation that you reneged on it,” Newsom said. “I just don’t like that. It’s a sort of point of integrity for me.”
Newsom also said he is frustrated at the lack of public discourse that has occurred on the proposed tuition increase.
“It’s very frustrating,” Newsom said. “It was a fait accompli on day one, even before it was agendized it was done. There was no public discussion. You didn’t have a chance to discuss it.”
According to Newsom, the tuition hike will damage the UC’s political clout in terms of securing additional funding from the state in coming years.
“It’s going to take the pressure off the legislature and the governor,” Newsom said, “So you actually lose leverage. They’re saying they’re creating leverage, [but] it’s exactly the opposite. That’s why it’s so preposterous.”
According to Kieffer, if the proposed increase in tuition is implemented, the future of state funding for UC depends on the legislature.
“A five percent increase reflects what the University needs. What happens after that is up to the legislature to decide,” Kieffer said. “Speaker Atkins seems to be pretty committed to looking for ways to find more revenue, so that’s a good sign.”
California Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins released a statement following the approval of the tuition hike and said the proposed fee increase of more than 25 percent is “unacceptable.”
“California students and their families have faced too many fee increases already,” Atkins said. “Instead, UC should work with the Legislature and Governor to get UC the money it needs to remain one of the state’s world-class assets, without harming the California students and families the University was created to serve.”
UC Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin said she opposed the plan and its proposed tuition increase on the grounds that students were paying for the Board’s financial shortfalls.
“I’m voting no today because students should not be the ones paying the price of the state … and should definitely not be the ones held hostage every time budget negotiations start,” Saifuddin said. “Maybe that’s not what the intention is, but that’s what it feels like.”
After further debate and discussion, the committee moved the motion to recommend the Board consider the Long Range Financial Plan. The advancement of the motion sparked an outburst from an attendee in the audience.
“This entire meeting has been a sham and an insult to every student and alum in the state of California and people in the state,” the attendee said.
The Committee on Long Range Planning voted 7-2 to advance the proposed financial aid and tuition plan to a vote by the full board, which will be considered today at 11:20 a.m. when the Board convenes as a whole to consider all proposed action items.
The Board then approved two action items from the Committee on Long Range Planning related to supplemental tuition offerings for professional degree programs as well as the adoption of a three-year financial sustainability report.
The former item asks the Regents for an across-the-board increase in professional degree supplemental tuition (PDST) rates as well as a special 20 percent increase in supplemental tuition for professional nursing programs, and authorizes new PDST rates for UC Berkeley’s graduate program in journalism, Leadership Education at Berkeley, Public Policy at Riverside, Teacher Education at Berkeley and Technology Management at Santa Barbara.
The three-year plan calls upon the University to submit a financial sustainability plan approved by the Board of Regents that includes projections of revenue, expenditures, enrollment and projected goals for specified performance outcome measures, for the years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 based upon a set of assumptions provided by the California Department of Finance (DOF). The committee approved both motions for full consideration by the Board.
The Board then convened the Committee on Finance to consider, for recommendation, the 2015-16 budget for current operations for the UC system, among other measures. The Board approved the budget for a full vote by the board today, which included the proposed tuition increase.
This story appeared on page 1 of Thursday, November 20, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) as the American Federation American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The article has been updated accordingly.]