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State budget deal sets aside more money for UC, CSU

Public universities may get $500 million more than last year under proposed spending plan. Campus officials are 'very pleased' but note that funding remains substantially lower than before the recession.

October 07, 2010|By Larry Gordon and Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times

In an otherwise gloomy state budget deal, California's two public university systems emerged as rare winners, garnering significant infusions of extra revenue, officials said Wednesday. The additional money for UC and Cal State, combined with previously announced federal stimulus funds, is expected to help restore some classes and hire professors.

"We are very pleased at this point," said Patrick Lenz, vice president for budget of the 10-campus University of California system.

Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system, said in a statement: "We appreciate the commitment by the governor and the Legislature to reinvest in higher education."

However, administrators at UC and Cal State emphasized that the budget deal, which must be approved by the Legislature, would not necessarily shield students from further fee hikes next year. They said it was too early to predict what the impact on fees might be.

The budget plan made public Monday would provide each system with $199 million more than last year in state general funds for operating costs. Although some details are still being reviewed, both universities also are expected to receive state funding to support student enrollment: about $51.3 million for UC and about $60.6 million for Cal State. About $14 million more is expected to help with UC employee retirement costs.

Last month, officials announced that UC and Cal State each will receive $106 million in federal stimulus funds.

Even with the new state and federal dollars, overall funding for the two university systems will remain lower than three years ago. But campuses anticipate some relief after several years of reduced enrollments and difficulty for students trying to get into courses they need for graduation.

"We will be able to hire faculty and be able to provide additional course sections," UC's Lenz said.

Cal State had already announced that it would use the federal stimulus money to admit as many as 10,000 new students for winter and spring terms, as well as restore about 3,000 course sections.

Christopher Chavez, president of the California State Student Assn., which has lobbied the governor and the Legislature to restore funding, described the budget plan as "better than expected." Chavez, a senior at Cal State Long Beach, said it showed that state leaders want to rebuild higher education, but he also stressed that the current proposal is well below spending levels before the recession began. "We can't forget that," he said.

Leaders of the California Community Colleges said Wednesday that they were still trying to analyze a complicated budget formula for their 112 campuses. The state appeared to be increasing some funds, but other money could be deferred, they said. The community colleges are set to receive $5 million in federal stimulus spending.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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