Governor Brown’s revised budget removes unit cap requirement

Courtesy of the Sacramento Bee
Courtesy of the Sacramento Bee

The release of Governor Jerry Brown’s revised budget on May 14, also known as the May Revision, supports a four-year freeze on UC tuition, allocates $2.8 billion to the UC system and discontinues a proposed 150-unit cap on state-subsidized courses for higher education.

According to UC Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz, Brown’s prudent budget upholds a multi-year agreement to return state funding back to the university system. However, critics say the budget needs to include $15 million in additional funds for the UCR School of Medicine, which is vital for addressing the physician shortage in the Inland Empire.

The May Revision projects a 20 percent increase over a four-year period for the UC system in the 2013-14 academic year. The revised budget also calls for debt restructuring, support for online technology and discussions on performance measures by tracking a college student’s progress on their way to graduation.

With prior passage of Proposition 30, sales and income tax funneled an additional $6 billion to the state’s General Fund. “As a result of the passage of Prop 30, we were able to receive $125 million that was associated with the tuition deferral and fee buyout,” Lenz said during the UC Board of Regents meeting. The budget revisions are expected to uphold an extended four-year tuition freeze.

Governor Brown, who is tasked with meeting the voter-approved constitutional amendment Proposition 98—which sets a minimum amount of funds for education—and paying down the state’s debt, expressed his desires to expedite a four-year graduation rate for students pursuing higher education. In his early January budget, he proposed a 150-unit cap on subsidized courses, which would have impacted 2,200 UC students in the 2013-14 academic year.

However, due to the lack of support from the California State Legislature, Governor Brown discontinued the unit cap in his revised budget. The Senate and Assembly subcommittees previously rejected Governor Brown’s proposed unit cap on the basis that it was not a cost-effective measure and only served as a detrimental learning barrier for students.

“While the premise of a unit cap is to ensure or help facilitate that students graduate within a reasonable time period, I think that there’s also a possibility that [a unit cap] will actually hurt students in terms of being able to gain the academic and educational experience that they want to gain at the CSU and UC,” said Student Regent-designate Cinthia Flores in a press release.

Lenz also stated that the debt restructuring proposal is critical to preventing a tuition increase in future academic years. The proposal is expected to generate $80 million in additional revenue for each upcoming year.

Following up on other priorities, Executive Vice President of Business Operations Nathan Brostrom stated that ongoing collaborations with the governor aim to provide $15 million in additional revenue for the UCR School of Medicine.

With the belief that the state needs to increase contributions to UCR’s School of Medicine, Brostrom said, “This is an incredibly important facility not only for the UC but for the whole state. It is focused on primary-care physicians and adding them in an area that is the most underserved in the state, the Inland Empire.”

Through the Affordable Care Act, there will be nearly 500,000 uninsured residents eligible for health care coverage by the beginning of 2014.

In response to the recent news, Chancellor Jane Conoley replied, “We did not anticipate that funding for the UCR medical school would be included in the Governor’s May Revised budget, so it is not surprising. We are still hopeful of securing the state funding needed for [the] school through the legislative process.” Referring to AB 27 and SB 21, Chancellor Conoley expressed gratitude to Senator Richard Roth and Assemblymember Jose Medina for their continuing efforts to provide funding for the medical school.

Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives at the School of Medicine Kathy Barton also supported the legislative measures currently being enacted. “What is being requested in AB 27 and SB 21 is a very small investment, in part because UCR is not constructing a costly university hospital. Instead, the school will leverage its partnership with healthcare providers in the region—a partnership that will vastly expand access to medical care in the underserved Inland Southern California region,” she said.

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