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Brown, Napolitano report on budget discussions

Gov. Jerry Brown and University of California President Janet Napolitano have discussed the importance of California enrollment growth and opportunities for increasing degree production as part of their far-reaching discussions on UC’s budget.

In an update to the UC Board of Regents on the Select Advisory Committee on the Cost Structure of the University last week, Napolitano and Brown described the meetings as both positive and productive.

“I think it’s important for us to remember what our main objectives are,” Napolitano told the board. “We want to keep tuition as low as possible and as predictable as possible. We want to extend the planning horizon line, moving to a longer-term approach that allows California families, our partners in state government and the university itself to make good choices as they contemplate their shared futures. And we want to do all this without sacrificing a single iota of the quality of the university.”

Critical look at cost structure

The regents in January voted to establish the committee, of which Brown and Napolitano are the sole members, and charged it with developing and evaluating proposals to reduce the university’s cost structure while improving access, quality and outcomes.

The committee has since held two meetings, during which they heard from higher education experts from both inside and outside UC. A third meeting is scheduled for April.

Napolitano said that she welcomed the focus on UC, how it is funded and the key role it plays in California’s economic growth and the well-being of its citizens.

She noted that Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León also were very engaged on the topic and had each put forth proposals.

Napolitano said she also had met with graduate and undergraduate students to talk about UC’s funding challenges.

“I want to be sure their voices are being heard,” Napolitano said. “All of us want to make sure that we do what is right for higher education.”

Brown told regents that he was enjoying his in-depth discussions with Napolitano as he looked for ways to lower the university’s overall cost structure.

“We haven’t had a tie vote yet, so that’s good,” Brown quipped, adding later, “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Holding the line on enrollment

Amid UC’s budget negotiations and uncertainty about state funding, Napolitano told the board that she announced in early March that UC might hold California enrollment at its current level for the 2015-16 academic year. The university also plans to maintain out-of state enrollment at current levels on the Berkeley and UCLA campuses.

Napolitano said the enrollment announcement was made in deference to the university’s admissions calendar, which is not in sync with the state budget process.

A final decision on whether UC can continue to increase California enrollment in the coming year will be tied, by necessity, to whether the university receives state funding to accommodate it, she said.

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