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Proposed state budget puts $25.8 billion toward higher education

By Katherine Hafner

Jan. 10, 2013 9:17 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed state budget for the 2013-14 year Thursday – a budget that includes significant implications for the future of the University of California in the form of funding and policy change proposals.

“Our future depends on disproportionately funding those students that have disproportionate challenges,” Brown said at a press conference Thursday morning.

Brown also said during the press conference that – for the first time since the recession – California does not face a budget deficit heading into the 2013-14 fiscal year, although this could change at any time.

Brown’s budget allocates $25.8 billion toward total higher education funding. Under the proposal, the University of California would receive about $2.8 billion, which includes a $250 million increase in funding from last year.

The $250 million figure is comprised of several parts. The state promised the UC $125 million last year as part of a tuition buyout in which the UC Board of Regents agreed not to raise tuition during the 2012-13 school year. Brown has also proposed another $125 million for the UC system.

This is the first time since the recession began in 2008 that the proposed budget reinvests in, rather than cuts, education funding, according to the budget summary.

Though an increase since the 2012-13 year, the proposal is still less than the regents asked of the state. According to the UC Office of the President website, the UC regents requested $150 million in funding from the state.

Assuming the money allocated in the proposed budget to the UC does not change before it is finalized, the UC would still face a $150 million budget gap, said Dianne Klein, a UC spokeswoman.

“Is it everything that we had wanted? No,” Klein said. “But we will continue with efficiencies and look forward to not always being worried about the Titanic sinking, in a manner of speaking.”

The funding comes with certain state-designated stipulations.

Brown has proposed adding a credit cap for UC students. At UCLA, which is on the quarterly system, the cap would be 270 units.

In the budget, Brown also emphasizes the development of online courses and technology in higher education. He proposed $10 million each to the UC and California State University systems – included in the additional $125 million – for the development of these ideas and programs.

This earmarked money comes at the height of a major discussion concerning the role of online education among state and educational officials.

The UC regents are slated to discuss online education and the UC’s recently implemented UC Online program, at their bimonthly board meeting next week.

Lt. Gov. and ex officio Regent Gavin Newsom and President pro tempore of the California State Senate Darrell Steinberg visited UCLA on Tuesday to discuss online education as well.

Because the technology is so new, it is not clear how much money a program like UC Online will bring in for the University, Klein said.

“The fact that (Brown) earmarked a certain amount of money (for online education) shows he thinks this is the future of education,” she said. “Anything that focuses on reinvesting in the University is good news.”

The budget proposal, however, does not state whether funding for the UC is contingent upon these strings in the proposal, said Daniel Mitchell, a professor emeritus of the Anderson School of Management and Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“It’s not really clear where (Brown is) allocating the money (for the UC) – it’s not really contingent on meeting these goals,” Mitchell said. “I’m not sure how the budget incentivizes these goals, but it goes in those directions.”

But Mitchell added that it is probably in the UC’s best interest to consider and accept the governor’s proposals.

Through its proposal, Brown’s administration aims to place more focus on education, both K-12 and beyond, said Nick Schweizer, program budget manager for the governor, during a conference call with members of the media.

As such, the state will try to avoid tuition increases for major Calif. institutions – if the UC and CSU can follow guidelines said set forth in the budget, he said.

“We’ll continue to actively work with the UC on these issues,” Schweizer said. “It is a separate entity so we cannot and don’t want to impose mandates on them – but we want to move them in a better direction.”

In November, Calif. voters approved Proposition 30, a tax measure to raise income and sales taxes. Brown said while campaigning for the measure that its passage would free up funds for higher education.

Calif. Senator and minority leader Bob Huff said in a statement released Thursday that he is concerned about how revenue from Proposition 30 will factor into the state’s proposed funding for education.

“The governor’s budget only seems to include $2.7 billion in new funding for K-12 schools and community colleges even though Proposition 30 taxes will generate $6 billion this year alone,” Huff said in the statement. “Californians should be disappointed.”

Schweizer, however, said the amount of revenue allocated from Proposition 30 funds should not come as a surprise.

“(Proposition 30 revenue) … can only guarantee about $2.7 million,” Schweizer said on the conference call. “The rest goes into ‘suring up’ the budget – something pointed out last year (before it passed).”

The proposed budget is not set in stone; it will likely change in May when the governor releases his “May Revise,” and a final budget will need to be approved by the Calif. legislature in June before being implemented.

The state of California as presented in the budget, and Brown’s announcement of an expected surplus, are also subject to change, especially before the budget is finalized, Mitchell said.

“It wouldn’t take too much bad news to turn that (positive state budget) negative,” he said. “There’s always a certain matter of uncertainty inherent in the budget.”

Email Hafner at [email protected].

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Katherine Hafner
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