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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Davis Budgets Extra $800,000 for New Campus

Education: For second time this week, the new Cal State facility in Camarillo moves closer to becoming a four-year university.

May 15, 1999|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In another significant step toward the creation of a four-year university in Ventura County, Gov. Gray Davis earmarked an additional $800,000 Friday for Cal State Channel Islands, a move spurred by a decision this week to induct the emerging campus into the Cal State University system.

Davis included the money in his revised budget for the 1999-2000 fiscal year, proposing to grant in full a request for $2 million for the university under development at the former Camarillo State Hospital complex.

During the initial budgeting process in January, the governor only set aside $1.2 million for the school. He said at the time that any additional funding would be premature since Cal State trustees had not formally started the process for turning the campus into a full-fledged, four-year institution.

But members of the Cal State University governing board eliminated that concern earlier this week when they voted unanimously to designate Channel Islands as the 23rd campus in the system.

That decision sets the stage for an application to the California Post-secondary Education Commission to formally establish the university.

"This dovetails nicely with the trustees' action of earlier this week," said state Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo), who pushed hard for the additional $800,000. "In fact, this signals the strong and continuing support from Gov. Davis for this university."

The additional money was part of a $55.6-million budget augmentation proposed for the University of California and Cal State University systems.

The governor also wants to allocate $33.5 million to reduce student fees at UC and Cal State schools by 10%, which would put the fees at their lowest level in eight years. In addition, Davis proposed spending $12.9 million for a $1-per-unit fee reduction for community college students.

Davis' budget proposals now go to the Assembly and the Senate for approval, a process that will continue into the summer and should culminate by July 1 with formal adoption of the spending plan.

While there are no guarantees, O'Connell said he is confident that the money will survive the scrutiny of his colleagues in the Legislature.

"It's much easier to play defense than to insert something new once the process gets started," he said. "I will protect it like a mother hen."

If the extra money stays in the budget, Cal State University officials will be able to accelerate planning efforts for the budding campus.

Much of those efforts will focus on winning approval from the California Post-secondary Education Commission, which is required by law to approve all new university campuses.

A preliminary letter of intent to establish the new university was submitted to the commission in March. Cal State officials said they hope to win that approval by the end of the year.

On a broader scale, planners will also begin laying the groundwork for the next fiscal year, when they will ask state lawmakers to establish an annual operating budget of $13 million to hire staff and craft academic programs.

If financing goals and other criteria are met, the Channel Islands campus could open the door to its first students as early as August 2002--two years sooner than first anticipated.

"We welcome the extra money," said Richard West, senior vice chancellor for business and finance for the Cal State system. "It helps us do the planning and start right away on the [California Post-secondary Education Commission] certification process."

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