Courtesy of
Courtesy of

Gov. Brown’s initial budget provides a modest consideration of higher education, but future tuition increases still loom.

Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed state budget for 2013-2014 on Jan. 10., which includes an increase of $256.5 million in state general funds to the UC. Included funds from Proposition 30 will provide a promised amount of $125 million, preventing any further tuition increases, but only for the current academic year. An additional $10 million is specifically earmarked for creating a “virtual campus,” which involves the expansion of UC online courses.

As part of a stable multi-year funding plan, Governor Brown proposed a five percent increase in state contributions to the UC for the next two consecutive years, followed by a four percent increase. The plan will assist the state in cementing a consistent stream of funding after years of state divestment from the UC. The UC Board of Regents, who meet this week in San Francisco, have not yet indicated how the budget may affect a previously discussed tuition increase for the 2013-2014 academic year.

“The leadership of the University of California is grateful that Gov. Brown is proposing re-investment in higher education,” stated Patrick Lenz, the UC Vice President for Budget and Capital Resources in a UCOP press release. “After absorbing nearly a billion dollars in state funding cuts during the past five years, we see his budget proposal as a very positive step forward in a process that will unfold over the next several months.”

Other funds that are also dedicated to the UC include investment in the advancing of technology for online courses. The $10 million is intended to increase statewide student accessibility, create a centralized and systemwide course site, and expand overall faculty instruction.

The budget’s commitment to additional funding for the UC marks a significant shift for the state, whose shrinking allocation of funds to the university has resulted in steep tuition hikes in recent years. UC tuition and fees have seen an increase of $5,556 over the last five years, bringing the cost to $12,192 for the 2013-2014 academic year. California’s steep recession and the state’s divestment in higher education have led to decreasing accessibility and affordability, specifically for middle-income families, who are often not eligible for financial aid reserved for less privileged ones.

According to the state budget report, “California students in public and nonprofit colleges rank 46th in student debt levels—half of California undergraduates have student debt, averaging $18,000, compared to two-thirds of graduates nationally, averaging $26,600.”

“The state’s recent disinvestment in higher education has forced significant tuition increases, but it’s important to remember that tuition revenue covered only about 38 percent of the budget gap resulting from the cuts in state funding; the rest of the shortfall was met through spending cutbacks, efficiencies and alternative revenue sources,” stated Lenz.