UC Regents Approve Budget That Could Mean Higher Student Fees

BERKELEY, Calif.

University of California leaders on Wednesday tentatively approved a 2008-09 budget despite objections that the proposal could lead to higher student fees.

The system’s governing Board of Regents hasn’t officially voted on a fee increase and isn’t expected to address that issue until after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presents his proposed state budget next January.

But the UC budget request approved by the board’s finance committee includes a possible fee hike of about 7 percent unless the state provides an extra $70.5 million.

With the state facing a deficit of several billion dollars, some argued the board is essentially opening the door to higher fees.

“I think we’re making a very serious mistake,” said Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a member of UC’s governing Board of Regents.

Garamendi asked the board to remove any reference to raising fees from their proposed budget. But the proposal was rejected with some regents saying they want to make their budget situation clear while others were concerned that taking a fee increase off the table would be a tactical error.

Garamendi, who is also a trustee of the California State University system, made a similar and equally unsuccessful pitch to that board as it approved its budget proposal during meetings in Long Beach this week.

CSU trustees on Wednesday approved a $4.8 billion budget for the 23-campus system that includes a 10 percent fee hike unless the state provides about $73 million in extra funding. CSU undergraduates now pay about $2,800 annually, with various campus fees bringing the total average up to about $3,500.

UC regents, meeting at UCLA in a session broadcast on the Web, gave tentative approval to an overall budget of $18.1 billion for the 10-campus system, with $3.3 billion of that coming from state general funds and $1.6 billion in student fees.

The proposal, which goes before the full board for ratification Thursday, includes finding at least $28 million in cost savings, including cutbacks at system headquarters as well as cost reductions elsewhere.

UC undergraduate fees, which have been increasing steadily, are now about $7,400 annually, including miscellaneous campus fees.

A number of students addressed the board before the vote, urging regents to oppose any hikes. Students also rallied outside the meeting room in protest.

Also Wednesday, the board’s compensation committee approved nearly $3 million in raises for 245 executives. Rates vary, but the raises average about 5 percent.

The committee, which met in closed session Tuesday, had been considering a proposal that could have boosted chancellors’ salaries by one-third.    

Administrators say that’s the amount necessary to bring chancellors up to market rate. But students and some legislators vigorously opposed the move, noting that chancellors earn an average of more than $300,000 a year.

The committee decided to defer action, saying it wants more information to set targets, criteria and methodology.



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