SAN FRANCISCO -- Tuition hikes for undergraduate students at the University of California are off the table for next year, Sherry Lansing, chairwoman of the UC regents, said Thursday.
But Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assembly Speaker John Perez were not satisfied with the university's budget proposal. The politicians implored the regents to consider broader and more radical budgetary changes, including cutting executive compensation and lowering teaching costs.
In essence, they said: Stop whining. Institutions everywhere are feeling the pain of budget cuts and rising pension costs.
"This university can't exist in a bubble," Perez said.
The speaker suggested UC leaders change their tone before asking the legislators for more, many of whom have just taken office and have gotten an earful from their constituents about the cost of college and other economic hardships.
The lawmakers' remarks -- and involvement -- are closely linked to the passage of Proposition 30, the state ballot measure that helped balance California's budget for the first time in years. The measure, which Brown championed, spared the state's public universities from drastic midyear cuts and restored some funding to public schools and colleges. Still, Brown and Perez noted that the crisis in higher education has not gone away -- for the colleges or for their students, who have endured years of tuition hikes.
"Just because we've begun to turn the corner, just because we've begun to see an increase, it doesn't mean the problem is solved," Perez said.
The latest UC budget proposal for 2013-14 includes a half-billion dollar increase, bringing the total to $6.2 billion. It banks on new state money, restructured debt, a growing enrollment of out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, and increased professional degree fees -- another political irritant.
"We seem to be fighting to keep undergraduate tuition down and have more or less accepted that (professional degree) tuition will continue to skyrocket," said Jonathan Stein, a student regent and a law student at UC Berkeley.
UC would spend $300 million of the new money on retirement contributions, health benefits and pay increases, and $155 million on a "reinvestment in quality" plan to lower student-faculty ratios and expand student support programs.
Perez tempered his remarks in a news conference after the meeting, saying he appreciated the robust discussion. Brown stressed that he was merely inviting "further inquiry," not demanding specific solutions.
Lansing said UC is not looking to the state to solve all of its budgetary problems. She noted that the regents would examine faculty teaching loads in March.
Still, she said, "You can't blame us for asking, and we'll continue to ask."
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