Friday, January 30, 2015

Stage III

Stage I was the unveiling of the Regents' tuition/funding plan. Stage II was the governor's response in terms of the Committee of Two and his January budget proposal. We are now in a PR/lobbying the legislature campaign: Stage III. The following email went out yesterday:
Dear UC Advocate,

As chairman of the Board of Regents, I am writing to you because we are entering a critical phase in efforts to put the University of California on the fiscal footing needed to ensure its ability to serve current and future generations of UC students as well as it has those in the past.

As you probably know, this is budget negotiation season in Sacramento, and for the 2015-16 budget cycle the stakes for the University – and, by extension, California -- could not be higher. For the next several months, you can expect state budget negotiations to be frequently in the news, and I wanted to make clear to our valued advocates the University’s position going into this process.

Last November, the board and President Napolitano adopted a long-term funding plan for the University. The idea behind this plan was too keep tuition as affordable as possible and as predictable as possible for California families contemplating a UC education. As you know, UC funding has been less than stable in the past, leading to large, unpredictable spikes in tuition rates.

At the same time, the five-year plan was meant to ensure the resources necessary to make room across the 10-campus system for an additional 5,000 California students, to re-invest in the University’s academic quality, and to maintain a robust financial aid program which at present fully covers the cost of tuition for half of UC’s undergraduates.

To achieve these fiscal goals, the Board approved contingency tuition increases of not more than 5% a year for the duration of the plan – with the full understanding that the state could eliminate the need for any tuition increases by increasing its contribution to the University’s core funds by an equal measure.

This will be the thrust of our negotiations, and the early indications from Sacramento leadership suggest a much-appreciated willingness to listen, discuss and negotiate going forward. In turn, and in the true spirit of any fair negotiating process, the University also is willing to engage and hear new ideas from our elected leaders. It is encouraging that the Governor and the President have begun a process of working through the University’s cost structure and budget options together.

Again, this is a high stakes proposition. The state and the University of California literally have grown up together, and in my view each has benefited from this symbiotic relationship. One would not be the same without the other. The need for a robust, public research university has not diminished; in fact, in the knowledge-based global economy of today it has only grown and will continue to grow.

For individual Californians, the importance of receiving the caliber of education the University of California provides also has never been higher. Californians know this. As evidence, consider the recently reported fact that UC’s applications for 2015-16 rose to a record 193,873 applicants – the 11th straight year the application pool has exceeded previous records.

As a society, all Californians owe it to these aspiring young applicants, and generations of new applicants to come, to do all in our power to keep the University on course and able to maintain the delicate but critical balance of excellence, affordability and access that has made it a model for the world.
We will be calling on you in the not-so-distant future to make the case for the University in the budget process, and I appreciate your interest in this cause. If you have a moment, please explore UC at a Glance, a web-based snapshot of the University that illuminates its breadth and reach throughout California and beyond. It can help answer a number of questions that often are raised about the University’s educational and research missions and their impact on all Californians.

Bruce D. Varner
UC Board of Regents

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