Brown warned the board of trustees at its Tuesday meeting that any request for funding more than the currently slated $125 million for 2013-14 will be hard to push through the Legislature.
"Look, it's a tight ship and it's going to get tighter," he said. "We're going to have to do some, how shall I say it—very creative, very thoughtful, very caring adjustments."
The university and the governor are also far apart on capital spending. Brown has allotted $3.6 million for four capital projects, while the university says it needs $519.6 million for 38 projects that include seismic, utility and infrastructure upgrades at various campuses.
Brown, who is a member of the board by virtue of his office, attended the trustees' meeting for the second time in a row, a sign that he is paying close attention to public higher education spending and policies. Last week, he also attended the University of California board of regents meeting for the second time.
CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage told trustees that the system will need nearly $372 million in additional funds to pay for items ranging from salary raises to maintenance and equipment.
Brown has agreed to give CSU $125 million
Last month, CSU launched Cal State Online, online courses designed to offer more of the basic courses that are often the most crowded.
Brown said that if the public universities don't make a radical change in how they provide education, students will have to pay more. "Business as usual will require tuition increases," he said.
Brown predicted that the university's requested $86 million for 3 percent salary raises will be hard to get approved by the Legislature. Other state workers have not received pay hikes and must contribute to their health insurance, unlike CSU employees, he said.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the board will consider a budget plan at its March meeting.