By Nanette Asimov
Undergraduates at the University of California can put their protest signs away for a second year: UC’s president said Thursday that a tuition hike for 2013-14 is “really unlikely.”
Even before UC President Mark Yudof could get out those words, Sherry Lansing, chairwoman of the Board of Regents interjected: “It’s off the table.”
Their remarks followed what one regent called a historic meeting in San Francisco in which Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles — both regents — made a rare joint appearance at the bimonthly meeting to hear UC officials discuss their budget prospects for next year.
After years of economic crisis during which the state cut UC’s budget by nearly $1 billion, and UC raised tuition each year between 2006 and 2011, this year’s relatively good financial news led to a lively discussion between UC and the politicians who hold its financial fate in their hands.
Brown has proposed a UC-friendly spending plan that offers 5 percent more money and another $125 million to buy out any tuition increase UC might have imposed this year. Now it’s up to the Legislature to decide whether to include that in the budget they’re negotiating.
But after listening to UC officials discuss the budget, Pérez didn’t like what he heard: an expectation that the state also would buy out future tuition hikes.
“This is your chance to make a good impression” on newly elected state lawmakers, Pérez said. “If your presentation to them has the same tone as it has here, I do not think you’ll be successful.”
If Pérez sounded like a stern parent, Brown came off professorial as he invoked political parallels with the Roman Empire and brought up his lingering appreciation for the vow of poverty he once took as a seminarian.
The governor said UC’s executives are paid too much and had foolishly avoided paying into their pension plan for years.
“Not everyone who’s so smart makes the right decisions,” Brown said.
Despite a spirited defense of UC compensation from regents Leslie Tang Schilling and Dick Blum — who said UC would become “a junior college in 15 years” without even higher pay — all sides were largely in agreement.
“Students are incredibly excited that tuition may be held constant for a second straight year,” said student Regent Jonathan Stein.
“Given that tuition has tripled in a decade, we deserve it.”
However, Stein said, students will fight proposals to raise fees on graduate students studying for professional degrees. The plan has been delayed, but no one from UC said that increase was off the table.
— Reach Nanette Asimov at [email protected]