Reported on: May 09, 2012 07:36 AM
Reported in: Education
SAN FRANCISCO, May 09 (AP/UNB) — University of California students could face significantly higher tuition if the state doesn't increase funding and voters reject the governor's tax initiative, school administrators said Tuesday.
Under one scenario, the 10-campus system would raise tuition by 6 percent this fall if the state doesn't increase funding by $125 million for 2012-13, according to a document posted online ahead of next week's UC Board of Regents meeting.
The university would need to consider a mid-year tuition increase in the "range of double digits" — or make drastic cuts to campus programs and staffing — if voters don't pass Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan in November, officials said.
"We're at a critical stage at the university. The regents would face more draconian choices if the governor's initiative fails," Patrick Lenz, vice president for budget and capital resources, told The Associated Press in an interview.
Board members are scheduled to discuss ways to raise revenue and cut costs when they meet in Sacramento on May 16. No action on tuition is expected until July.
As the state grapples with another major budget deficit, California's public colleges and universities are crafting plans to respond to another series of painful funding cuts.
In Long Beach on Tuesday, the Board of Trustees of the California State University system discussed options to reduce costs and boost revenue to deal with its financial woes. It also took action to address anger over how much campuses pay their presidents.
If UC approves the 6 percent hike, tuition for in-state undergraduates would rise $731 to $12,923, nearly double what students paid five years ago before the financial crisis began. That figure doesn't include room, board or roughly $1,000 in campus fees.
"Short of an ability of the state to buy out a tuition increase, I'm not sure how we would avoid one," Lenz said.
But Lenz said the university remains committed to providing financial aid to students from low- and middle-income families. Most UC students from families earning less than $80,000 a year pay no tuition.
The amount of the proposed tuition hike could change based on the state's fluid budget situation, officials said.
"It's unacceptable," said Claudia Magana, president of the University of California Students Association. "We can't keep relying on students to fill this budget gap."
The tuition scenarios are based on the 2012-13 budget plan the governor released in January. On Monday, Brown is scheduled to release a revised budget proposal based on new projections that state revenues have fallen about $3 billion below expectations.
Administrators said the university is in discussions with the governor's office about creating a multi-year funding plan for UC if the tax initiative passes. That proposal calls for raising tuition by 6 percent annually over the next five years, so students know how much their education will cost.
Over the past four years, the state has slashed spending on higher education to close yawning budget gaps caused by the financial crisis. The budget cuts have led to steep tuition hikes, course cutbacks, staff layoffs and rowdy student protests.
The UC and CSU systems each lost $750 million in state funding during the current fiscal year. That represents a roughly 20 percent cut for UC and 27 percent reduction for CSU.
Brown previously said UC and CSU would each lose an additional $200 million if his tax initiative is not approved. But UC and CSU officials say the two systems could face even deeper cuts because the state's budget deficit is much larger than previously projected.
At the CSU trustees meeting in Long Beach, administrators outlined ways to respond to further budget cuts: closing a campus, consolidating administrative services, creating "charter" campuses and programs financed by tuition, raising employees' health care premiums, increasing tenured faculty's teaching load and class sizes, reducing sabbaticals, and increasing tuition for out-of-state students and master's programs.
Chancellor Charles Reed immediately ruled out closing a campus, but indicated he would support asking employees to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums to save $70 million a year.
"Mostly, where we're going to end up is collective bargaining," Reed said. "It's going to be a shared set of hurt."
The 23-campus Cal State system has already hiked tuition by 9 percent for this fall and frozen admissions for next spring in response to state budget cuts.
A board committee on Tuesday approved a move to ask campus foundations to pay for raises of up to 10 percent for incoming campus presidents, so taxpayers don't have to pay for them.
The measure is aimed at addressing criticism from faculty, students and lawmakers who say CSU shouldn't be giving pay raises to executives when it's hiking tuition, freezing employee pay and restricting student enrollment.
The full board will vote on the policy change on Wednesday.