The University of California Office of the President did not finish its budget on time, which could affect the state government’s decision to allocate funds to the University, the California State Auditor said Tuesday.
The auditor’s one-year evaluation of the UC showed it had fully completed six out of the 10 recommendations from its 2017 audit. It determined UCOP did not complete its budget and had not implemented the office’s salary range recommendations.
However, an independent consultant report from Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting commissioned by the University showed that UCOP has met the 2017 audit’s 10 recommendations.
The consultant report said UCOP interpreted the budget recommendations to include other aspects, such as researching best practices for budget development and presentation and developing a budget manual.
State legislators requested a state audit on UCOP in April 2017 because they were concerned the University was improperly increasing tuition and misappropriating funds. A state audit found that UCOP’s budget practices were misleading, which resulted in the office accumulating a surplus of $175 million it did not disclose. It added UCOP asked for budget increases based on overestimated budgets and spent less than it budgeted for.
The 2017 audit recommended UCOP undertake a series of changes by April 2018, including changing its budget practices, realigning staffing costs and evaluating its systemwide initiatives, such as its carbon neutrality initiative.
The UC announced last week it will not vote to increase in-state tuition during its Board of Regents meeting in May, hoping to receive more funding from the state instead. The University said it may consider raising tuition if its petitions for additional funding are rejected by the state.
UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem said in an email that UCOP has accepted the auditor’s recommendations and believes it has fulfilled the 10 it is required to complete in the first year after the audit. The UC is expected to implement 33 recommendations by April 2020.
“We will continue to implement all 33 of these recommendations, thoroughly, on time, and in a transparent manner,” she said.
Beechem added the UC will continue to work alongside students to advocate for $140 million in additional state funding until the end of June. She said Gov. Jerry Brown’s January proposal to increase the UC’s core educational budget by 3 percent remains far below the amount of funding needed for enrollment growth, increases in instruction and student services, and maintenance needs.
Student Regent-designate Devon Graves said he thinks the UC has been acting in good faith in implementing the audit recommendations and has been transparent in the process. He added he thinks the audit is a separate issue from the state government’s decision to fund the UC.
“I hope the Legislature focuses on (the fact that) the spending request we have is for our campuses and for our students,” Graves said. “I hope (the audit evaluation) doesn’t have an impact on the budget request we’re making.”
He added he thinks the state Legislature should pay attention to students advocating in Sacramento to grant the UC the funding it requests.
“I hope we don’t raise tuition (and) we can have funding to go to campuses to support students’ education mission,” he said.