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September 18, 1997

UC president urges support for fee, funding bills

By Michael Lassiter
UC Office of the President

University of California President Richard C. Atkinson today (Thursday, Sept. 18) urged Gov. Wilson to sign two bills before him that would cut undergraduate student fees for California residents next year and provide necessary state funding for higher education at least through the year 2003.

He strongly endorsed AB 1415 (Bustamante) which would provide UC and California State University with at least the same share of the state budget as they will receive next year through 2003 plus additional funding to accommodate enrollment growth that exceeds 1.5 percent a year. It is anticipated that with a continuing robust economy, sufficient state funding would be provided to avoid general student fee increases over the four-year period.

"I have concerns about having adequate resources to maintain our quality, accommodate enrollment growth, and keep UC affordable," Atkinson said. "I am very pleased to report that the legislature has approved AB 1415 which accomplishes these goals."

Atkinson praised Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante for his leadership on the measure, which UC Budget Director Larry Hershman called "the most significant legislation I have seen in the 30 years I have been with the university."

The measure would reviewed by the legislature at the end of the four-year period and a decision will be made to continue or modify the agreement.

As part of the agreement, UC would continue to admit all qualified California undergraduates and provide them with the classes they need to graduate in a timely fashion. It also would expand outreach efforts and ensure students a smooth transition from one segment of higher education to another.

Atkinson told the UC Board of Regents in San Francisco that another bill, AB 1318 (Ducheny), would provide "welcomed relief for our students and families" by providing state funding to allow a 5 percent or $190 a year reduction in undergraduate student fees for California residents in 1998-99 and freeze for two years the systemwide fees paid by California resident students enrolled in graduate and professional school programs. The university's undergraduate fees have been frozen at $3,799 for three years.

In an action related to this year's budget, Atkinson announced to the Regents that faculty and staff salary increases will be delayed by one month and some deferred maintenance projects will be held up temporarily to offset a last-minute, one-time $12 million cut in UC's 1997-98 state budget.

The cut was a result of a $1.5 billion cut in the state budget to make a one-time payment to the state Public Employees Retirement System required by a court decision.

Atkinson said restoration of the $12 million will be one of the highest priorities in the university's 1998-99 state budget request. Delaying the implementation of previously approved salary increases for faculty and staff from Oct. 1, 1997 to Nov. 1, 1997 will save $6 million and still keep the university's salary base competitive, Hershman said.

The remainder of the cut will be achieved by holding in reserve $6 million of the $12.5 million in unanticipated revenue from nonresident tuition set aside for deferred maintenance. Hershman said, Every effort will be made during the year to find one-time savings so that the sequestered $6 million in tuition revenue can be used for deferred maintenance."

Despite the one-time cut, Atkinson praised the governor and the legislature for continuing to make higher education a priority for California.

He described the university's 1997-98 state budget as a victory for our students and their families, noting that a third straight year of stabilized funding for UC has resulted in three years of no general student fee increases, a closing of the salary gap for faculty, and the ability to continue to provide classes to allow students to graduate in a timely fashion.

The university received a 6 percent increase in state funding for 1997-98 and anticipates a similar increase for next year given predictions of a continuing robust economy for California, Hershman said.

Such a budget, he said, would mean a fourth year without a general student fee increase, sufficient funds to restore competitive faculty salaries, and the ability to enroll an additional 2,000 students in 1998-99.

It would also allow continued advancement in instructional technology for students and expansion of the university's cooperative research program with business to speed the transfer of new knowledge from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Hershman said next year's budget would include two new initiatives: the development of a digital library for California which would provide Internet access to the university's libraries; and a new effort to address UC's backlog of deferred maintenance.

Other priorities if funds are available, he said, would be further expansion of student outreach, additional funding for planning a 10th campus, and more funds to speed access to instructional technology.

A 1998-99 budget plan will be presented to the Board of Regents in October.

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