The extra millions in next year's California budget plan opens up thousands of new, in-state student seats at public universities to help meet increased demand driven by a growing population.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature announced a budget agreement Tuesday that earmarks substantial added funding for the University of California and California State University systems. But the higher education dollars come with strings attached.
“We’re grateful that the legislature and governor provided $25 million for enrollment growth, which has been a top priority for UC,” said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein in an email on Wednesday.
However, she said university officials are concerned because UC wouldn’t receive those funds to pay for 5,000 new students in the 10-campus system until after the university shows proof it has enrolled the students in about a year's time.
Enrolling 5,000 students “would be difficult to achieve by 2016-2017," Klein said, because the campuses need time to hire additional faculty, create housing and expand courses.
She did not say whether the university would seek the funds elsewhere or would ask for a change in the budget provision.
The larger, 23-campus California State University system will get its $103 million allocation for enrollment growth outright. The university plans to open up about 12,300 seats.
“We’re very pleased with the budget,” said CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle.
CSU's funding has conditions as well, though it wouldn't have to wait a year to get its funding as UC is being required to do.
The governor and lawmakers want both university systems to meet certain goals, explained H.D. Palmer, Gov. Jerry Brown's finance spokesman, “such as improving times to graduation, such as the transferability of courses, such as the ability of transfers from community colleges into the UC and CSU systems.”
Since the incoming class at Cal State campuses is by and large set, the first group likely to benefit from the expansion of seats are community college transfers enrolling in the winter of this academic year.
The budget also includes $38 million for university “student success” programs, which is separate from the enrollment growth funds.
“For any student that’s coming into the Cal State university system, this will mean that there are options available to them to help them get their degree faster, to help them get the classes that they’re looking for, and also to have the teachers that are tenure-track faculty teachers that will be working in our classrooms,” Molle said.
Brown is the first governor in California in recent memory to tie public university funding to a list of goals.
The budget requirements are the latest turn in a political fight between Brown and Napolitano over UC's plans to raise tuition by 5 percent for each of the next five years unless the state provided more funding.
Since their differences became public last November, the two have met and worked out an agreement that placed the tuition hike on hold and provided additional resources for UC in the governor's budget proposal.
The requirement that UC must now show proof of enrollment may stem from lawmakers concerned that the university system hasn't done enough to take in California students, either through transfers or direct enrollment.
Responding to political pressure, UC announced in spring a cap on out-of-state enrollment for the coming academic year at its two most popular campuses, UCLA and Berkeley. In doing so, however, it also did not expand in-state seats.
Napolitano said at the time that the campuses did not have the resources to add spaces for California students.