Gov. Jerry Brown ties UC & CSU funding increases to reforms

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed increasing funding for the University of California and California State University by 4.2% this year but only if the universities agree to hold tuition flat and implement reforms to improve 4-year graduation rates. 

“It helps [students] in two ways – by holding tuition flat and by encouraging the universities…to enable students to get through within four years instead of the much longer period that seems to increasingly be the order of the day,” Brown said of his proposal.

If the governor’s budget is approved, UC and CSU will each receive an increase of $142 million in state funding for fiscal year 2014-15.

The proposed $142 million is the second installment of a 4-year $500 million higher education investment package to recompense for the steep cuts imposed on state universities and colleges between 2007 and 2012.

The funding increases, however, are tied to reforms requiring UC and CSU to hold down costs, prevent further tuition hikes, reduce the time it takes complete a degree, and improve the overall graduation rates.

During the recession, UC and CSU imposed multiple tuition increases, nearly doubling fees by $5,556 (UC) and $2,700 (CSU) within a few years. Brown’s budget would require UC and CSU to maintain their tuitions at the 2011-12 levels – $12,192 for UC and $5,472 for CSU – through fiscal year 2016-17.

Brown’s budget would also increase funding by $107 million this year for a Middle Class Scholarship Program, which helps UC and CSU students from families earning up to $150,000. Brown noted that the UC and CSU tuition hikes created significant hardships for middle-class families that don’t qualify for most financial aids, and the Middle Class Scholarship Program set to begin this year would help bridge that gap.

Another condition of the state funding increase is to require UC and CSU to find ways to help students complete their undergraduate degrees within 4 years. Just a little bit more than half of the UC students graduate within 4 years, and CSU’s 4-year completion rate is only 16%.

“I do think that it used to be 4 years and free. Now, in many cases, it’s 6 years and expensive,” said Brown. “So I do think we don’t want to keep kids in college any longer than we have to, and we have to find ways of reducing the cost structure by either making the curriculum more flexible, finding ways of using our teaching resources more productively, or employing online technologies in various ways or other ways. I just think we’re in a new world when the prices of getting a room and the prices of tuition and the prices of books are so much higher that that argues very strongly for making sure that students can get their degrees and get about their lives much sooner than is the case for hundreds of thousands today.”

As of early January, the UC and CSU budgets for 2014-15 are seeking 10% increases in state funding – about two times more than what the governor proposed.

The UC system serves about 243,000 undergraduate and graduate students; the CSU system serves about 434,000 undergraduate and graduate students; and California community colleges serve about 2.3 million students.

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