Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan announced Thursday morning gives California's colleges and universities good news for the first time in years.
The CSU and UC systems would each receive an additional $125 million in funding for core instructional programs. It was less than they asked for, but far better than their outlook just a few months ago, before the passage of Propositions 30 and 39 in November. Those measures are expected to raise an additional $6 billion annually for the state. In addition, the two university systems will receive $125 million each next year, as promised, as part of a deal struck with the governor last year, pending the passage of Proposition 30.
The state's community colleges would receive $197 million more in general-purpose funds next year -- money that will allow colleges to restore thousands of classes, said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris.
"Governor Brown's leadership in passing Proposition 30 means California community colleges can begin to make room for some of the hundreds of thousands of students who have been shut out of our system due to recent funding cuts," Harris said in a news release. "This budget represents a good start toward financial recovery for our system. The governor and voters deserve credit for beginning this overdue reinvestment."
Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Los Altos Hills, said it was unclear how much new money would flow to her district. She said some of the other ideas outlined in the plan would require further discussion and negotiation, statewide -- including initiatives to expand online education and adult education, and a proposal to fund community colleges based on student enrollment at the end of the term, rather than at the beginning.
Still, Thor said she was pleased the governor's proposal recognized the importance of community colleges. It feels good to start the new year in the black, rather than in the red, for once, she said.
"We like 2013 so far," she said.
CSU's new leader, Timothy White, was also quick to praise the plan, though it fell far short of the ask -- $125 million out of the $372 million requested, according to CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.
"The proposed budget heads us in the right direction," White said in a prepared statement. "It will allow the CSU to address the unprecedented demand for high quality education at our institutions, as well as areas of critical need. We still face many fiscal challenges and will continue efforts to operate efficiently and effectively, and seek out additional innovative ways to control costs."
Still, the governor predicted that universities would end up raising tuition to close the gap between his proposal and what they've said they need. Uhlenkamp said a tuition hike for CSU students is not under consideration at the moment. But UC's budget plan included a 6 percent increase in addition to new general fund spending, noted Judith E. Heiman, principal analyst for the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.
If neither system raises tuition, Heiman said, the new state funding would amount to a 5 percent increase for UC and a 7 percent increase for CSU.
The UC Regents meet next week in San Francisco. Brown said he plans to make an appearance -- to once again encourage the system to live within its means.
"The only way to stop that is for colleges and universities to reconfigure themselves so they are more effective and they are able to do excellent work, but will do it in a way that will not keep the costs escalating at more than two times the cost of living," Brown said.
UC responded to Brown's comments with a statement from Patrick Lenz, vice president for budget and capital resources. Lenz expressed gratitude for the plan, and then underscored the years of state "disinvestment" -- nearly $1 billion in cuts -- that preceded it:
"We share Gov. Brown's interest in stabilizing tuition, and will explore every opportunity to do so while continuing to press forward with efficiencies ... and pursuing new sources of revenue. In the end, however, the university must always work to assure that its fundamental attribute remains intact, and that is the quality of education, research, health care and public service that the state has come to expect from its university."
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