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UC to revise long-term budget plans

By Alexia Boyarsky

Feb. 12, 2013 12:42 a.m.

Although scarcely publicized, the University of California has made a slew of changes to its budget process – which attempt to increase the transparency of how the university system is funded – over the last two years.

Prior to the budget reform, the UC budget process was convoluted and had little oversight from officials outside of the UC Office of the President, said Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president of UC business operations.

The changes aim to help each UC campus understand where its generated revenues go, and where its state funds come from, Brostrom said.

UCLA officials, however, have voiced concerns that the budget plans could adversely affect the campus. Officials have expressed discontent about these reforms, which they say have caused UCLA to lose some money in the past, and could lead to the university losing out on additional funds in the future.

Before these reforms, the UC collected revenues raised by each campus, pooled them, and used them to fund different aspects of the UC system. Last school year, the UC Office of the President began the first stage of budgetary reforms by allowing campuses to keep their own revenues, and instead collecting a small tax from these revenues.

This new “funding streams” model is intended to push each campus to pursue more innovative means of funding, with the knowledge that any funds that they raise will go back to their campus, Brostrom said.

Particularly in a time of budget restrictions on the UC, this step was important for incentivizing campuses to generate more revenue, he said.

But UCLA officials said the UC’s funding streams initiative caused UCLA to lose some money the year it was instituted.

While funding streams streamlined how campuses keep their revenue, the next reform deals with how state funds are allocated to each campus.

Under the rebenching plan – which the UC started implementing this school year – the amount of state funds that is allocated to each campus will be tied to student enrollment numbers.

This new formula makes the system both easier to understand and fairer, as campuses know how their state funds are allocated, said Jean-Bernard Minster, chair of the UC committee on planning and budget.

UCLA officials, however, have expressed concerns that rebenching will negatively affect UCLA, which currently receives the most state funds per student. Officials have estimated that the campus will lose out on about $50 million additional state funds because of the rebenching plan, said Phil Hampton, a UCLA spokesman.

To facilitate rebenching, the UC is also working on setting enrollment targets to determine how state funds are allocated to campuses. These targets will help the UC to more clearly plan how their budget will be allocated in the future, Brostrom said.

“Overall, the (UC budget) reforms provide more transparency and more ownership of the budget to the campuses,” he said.

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