UC official acknowledges likelihood of tuition increases

Courtesy of UC Newsroom

During a special budget teleconference held Jan. 11, top UC official Patrick Lenz revealed that the university does not envision any end to tuition increases in the near future. Lenz, who serves as the UC vice president of budget and capital resources, noted that the “administration does have a desire for affordability with modest, predictable and affordable tuition increases.” Lenz also discussed the impact of trigger cuts, trade-off options faced by the UC and elaborated upon Governor Brown’s proposed budget. When asked by a teleconference caller about the nature of the aforementioned tuition increases, Lenz explained that the rates would likely range between 3 to 5 percent increases.

A majority of the conversation was focused on the future of state funding and the sort of decisions that the university would have to make under different funding scenarios. Governor Brown’s revenue initiative, which seeks to establish a 4 percent base budget growth for the university, includes such changes as a .5 percent sales tax increase and an increase in tax rates on the highest income Californians. The numerous initiatives are aimed to generate $6.9 billion in new revenue for the state’s general fund. However, Lenz noted that if November’s ballot initiative does not pass, then the budget would entail a $5.4 billion mid-year budget “trigger” reduction. Under this scenario the UC would lose $200 million in funding from the state.

Meanwhile, Lenz also discussed the long-term plans and goals of the university in the midst of the ongoing financial crisis. Lenz stated that the administration was seeking to improve graduation rates and the time to completion, increase transfer students, streamline teaching workloads and provide additional emphasis on community college transfer students. Changes to the Cal Grant program were also outlined. The GPA requirements of the program will be increased as follows: Cal Grant GPA requirements from the A, B and C programs (community college transfers) would increase from 3.0 to 3.25, 2.0 to 2.75 and 2.4 to 2.75, respectively. Furthermore, the award amount for students attending private, for-profit schools would be lowered to $4,000.

One caller asked Lenz to elaborate on which areas would be impacted if the $200 million mid-year trigger cut were to occur. “We do have three options: one, we can go out and increase our philanthropy…look at tuition, and unfortunately we have had to do that over the past few years…and then we could take 200 million dollars and cut the university by that amount,” stated Lenz.  “We would be challenged by adopting any single factor. I think that the university will have to carefully scrutinize a number of different areas to address another 200 million dollar reduction.”

Another caller scrutinized the ongoing increase in salaries of some university administrators while students have had to should the increased costs. The University of California has drawn controversy in the past several years for this reason, namely stemming from pay increases for medical center personnel. Lenz acknowledged that such an option had been done before and was something that the regents would consider.

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