uc_color_logo.jpgThe University of California Board of Regents, after several years that have been punctuated by tuition hikes and cutbacks, will weigh a proposal at a meeting Thursday morning to develop a multi-year funding plan with the state.

In a proposal to the board, university officials outlined a plan that could see tuition hikes as high as 16 percent annually for the next four years if the state provides no increase in support.

The increases students would see will depend on the amount of support provided by the state. For example, if the state provides 8 percent increases each year, then students would only need to provide the other 8 percent. If the state provides 4 percent increases, students would provide 12 percent increases.

Two decades ago, students paid $2,670 in tuition and fees. Students now pay $12,192, and tuition could reach $22,000 in four years in the worst-case scenario of no increase in funding from the state.

The hikes are meant to help offset a budget shortfall that is expected to grow to $2.5 billion over the same period.

Although the university expects to account for $1 billion of that deficit through efficiencies and new revenues, officials say they need the state to contribute for the university to remain competitive and protect its legacy of excellence.

“A bold new approach is necessary to save the university from an irreversible decline into mediocrity,” Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom and Vice President Patrick Lenz wrote in the proposal.

Enrollment has consistently outpaced state support in recent decades. There are 51 percent more students now than there were in 1990, but the state contributes only 10 percent more than it did two decades ago, university officials said.

State support for education on a per student basis has decreased by 60 percent since 1990, based on inflation-adjusted dollars. The state currently contributes $6,770 per student. In 1990, the state contributed $16,720 per student.

Meanwhile, the amount students pay toward these costs has tripled to $8,540 today.

The university’s budget problems date back to 2008, when the state reneged on a six-year funding compact that had been established while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in office.

The university is looking for renewed assurance from the state that it will provide long-term funding so that the university can plan for long-term investments, such as expanding academic programs, enrolling students, and hiring and tenuring faculty.

“The swings in state support, now deeper and of longer durations, have made it impossible to react to changing events while maintaining a longer term vision,” Bostrom and Lenz wrote in the proposal. This uncertainty, they say, has eroded faculty and student confidence in the university.

According to Bostrom and Lenz, the university can only implement so many austerity measures before undermining the quality of the system, noting that such measures are not sustainable in the long run.

Should the state continue to flounder in supporting the UC system, university officials said that the system would need to consider becoming more self-sufficient, shifting from what was established as a public higher educational system to one that more resembles a private system.

As it is, student tuition and fees represent $2.8 billion in revenue, while the state provides the UC system with about $2.4 billion.

When the system began weighing tuition hikes in 2008, some members of the board of regents expressed concern that hikes would lead to privatization of the state’s once-free higher education system.

In July, the regents approved a 9.6 percent tuition increase for graduate and undergraduate students at UC schools in response to $650 million in state funding cuts.

That hike came seven months after the regents voted to raise tuition by 8 percent to partially relieve a budget shortfall of $1 billion.

The board is scheduled to consider the proposal Thursday morning at the University of California at San Francisco Mission Bay campus’ community center at 1675 Owens St. The finance committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for 10:45 a.m. but is contingent on the completion of earlier scheduled meetings.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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