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The following news release was issued by UC's Office of the President on Thursday, June 19, during the meeting of the Board of Regents:


Thursday June 19, 1997
News Office (510) 987-9200

Partnership Act Called Crucial to Higher Education

University of California President Richard C. Atkinson Thursday called the passage of Assembly Bill 1415, the Higher Education Partnership Act of 1997, critical to the future of public higher education in the state.

"There is no legislation more critical to the future of the university," Atkinson told the UC Board of Regents meeting at UC Irvine. "The Higher Education Partnership Act of 1997 represents a commitment to provide the university with what we need to continue offering excellent and affordable public education."

The measure, authored by Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante, D-Fresno, has passed the Assembly 69-9 and now awaits action in the Senate.

Atkinson called the Assembly action a stunning vote that shows a remarkable bipartisan support. "I believe it demonstrates that the Assembly agrees with us that education is indispensable to maintaining California's climate of opportunity. One of the characteristics that most distinguishes California from other states is its commitment to creating a world-class system of public higher education."

Atkinson praised Speaker Bustamante for his leadership and vision in authoring AB 1415.

The measure would provide UC and California State University with at least the same share of the state budget they now receive on an annual basis.

Under the partnership plan, higher education would receive an annual budget increase equal to the annual growth in the California per-capita personal income. In addition, the state would provide funding to accommodate enrollment growth and funds to offset the need for mandatory undergraduate student fee increases.

If the partnership were fully funded, the need for student fee increases would be eliminated. And in years when the state could not fully fund the partnership, student fees could not increase by more than the percentage growth in the California per-capita personal income. In effect, fee increases would be limited to growth in personal purchasing power.

In return, UC would continue to enroll all qualified California high school graduates, provide the classes they need to graduate in a timely fashion, increase student outreach efforts, and set aside one-third of the revenue from fee increases for financial aid. CSU would make similar commitments.

Since a high of nearly 7 percent in the early 1970s, UC's share of the state general fund has shrunk to little more than 4 percent. Given competing constitutional and statutory demands on the general fund, the Rand Corporation and the state Department of Finance have suggested the university's share of the state's general fund budget will continue to erode unless some action is taken.

UC Budget Director Larry Hershman told the Regents that the governor's compact with higher education has stabilized higher education funding over the last two years, but the compact is scheduled to expire next year making the need for development of a long-term partnership of state support critical.

"The Speaker's strong leadership is appreciated by all who recognize the importance of higher education to the economy of California," Hershman said.

The partnership would not make up for severe budget cuts higher education suffered in the early 1990s, Hershman said, but reflects the minimum of what we believe is necessary to sustain the university as it faces the challenges of maintaining quality, access and affordability against a backdrop of limited state resources and projections of dramatic increases in student enrollment.

The university, he said, will need to continue our efforts to be more productive to free up resources to adequately fund our libraries, make progress in addressing the huge backlog of deferred maintenance, and continue providing students with access to state-of-the-art instructional technology.

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