The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said it has “serious concerns” about Gov. Jerry Brown’s higher education budget proposal and is urging legislators to reject it, including the governor’s call for a three-year freeze on tuition increases.
Brown has proposed a little over a billion dollar funding increase for the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges.
At issue is a fundamental disagreement with the governor’s approach to funding. The LAO argues that the governor should tie increases in state funding more closely to better student outcomes at universities and colleges, including improving graduation rates and reducing the time it takes for students to earn their degrees.
“We recommend the Legislature require UC and CSU to discuss their performance in specific areas (such as student access and success) at budget hearings each spring. The Legislature could use this opportunity to learn more about each university’s performance, develop performance expectations moving forward, and make funding decisions based on this information,” the LAO wrote in an analysis of the higher education budget released earlier this week.
The LAO also opposes Brown’s tuition freeze and instead recommends
a 2.5 percent fee hike at UC to generate $78 million, and a 3.3 percent hike at CSU to raise $84 million. Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, CSU raised tuition by $2,700 to its current level of $5,472 for California residents. UC undergraduates pay $12,192, more than double the amount from five years ago.
“California’s tuition and fee levels are relatively low” and are offset by financial aid programs for low- and middle-income families, according to the LAO. “As a result, the net price they pay (after fee waivers, grants, and scholarships) often is far less than the list price.”
UC spokeswoman Brooke Converse said in an email that the university has already promised not to raise student fees
next year and would “like to find a way to provide stable and predictable tuition for our students and their families in the future.”
The LAO would also eliminate the governor’s proposed funding increase to UC for enrollment growth, arguing that the university’s own reports estimate that enrollment will not increase next year. CSU would still receive $42 million to meet an anticipated 2 percent boost in enrollment.
Converse said the university finds that disappointing, noting that during the recession, UC did not reduce enrollment despite losing state funding for about 7,500 students a year.
A CSU spokesman said officials in the chancellor’s office reviewed the report but did not have a comment on it.
Brown proposed raising the community college budget by 11.4 percent to $6.2 billion, including $163 million to pay down deferrals – payments the state pushed from one fiscal year to the next to make ends meet, and then never paid back – and $200 million in dedicated funding for the Student Success and Support Program and similar categorical programs designed to provide support for low-income and racial and ethnic minority students.
The LAO report would keep that funding but consolidate all the programs into a Student Success Block Grant. The LAO also urges the Legislature to study enrollment trends at community colleges to determine if they really need increased funding for a 3 percent increase in students. The LAO says that in recent years, campuses haven’t met their enrollment targets and this may be a trend.
The chancellor’s office prefers the governor’s budget plan, said Paul Feist, vice chancellor for communications for the community college system.
“We think the governor’s original budget proposal contains the right mix and approach to restoring access to our colleges,” Feist said in an email, “which had to turn away 500,000 students during the years of recent budget cuts, and investing in student success initiatives that will improve time to completion.”
Contact senior reporter Kathryn Baron and follow her on Twitter @TchersPet. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.
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