Jerry Brown asks to delay discussion of university fees hikes

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

For the second time this week, a California university system has postponed a vote on fee increases as Gov. Jerry Brown makes the rounds touting the success of his Proposition 30 tax measure.

University of California regents announced Tuesday that at Brown's request, they yanked an item from today's agenda that called for raising fees at several UC professional schools, including schools of nursing, business, law and medicine. Brown, who sits on UC's governing board, plans to attend today's regents meeting in San Francisco.

The Democratic governor campaigned heavily on college campuses in the run-up to last week's election, repeatedly making the promise that approval of Proposition 30 – which puts new tax money toward education – would avert tuition increases at public universities this year.

While passage of the measure means that CSU is reducing tuition in January and that UC will not raise undergraduate tuition this school year, it does not affect other types of fees, such as those charged at UC's professional graduate schools or those proposed for California State University students who linger on campus for a sixth or seventh year of college.

UC's Office of the President released a statement saying Brown "asked for additional time to allow him to develop a better understanding of the policies and methodology involved in the setting of fee levels at individual graduate professional programs."

CSU officials made a similar move late Monday, putting off a discussion about a controversial plan to charge extra fees on "super seniors," course repeaters and students who take an extra-heavy course load after the governor announced his plans to attend Tuesday's board of trustees meeting.

At the meeting in Long Beach, Brown thanked CSU leaders for postponing the vote. The proposal had caused an uproar among students and faculty, and threatened to steal some thunder from Brown's unusual appearance at the CSU trustees meeting, where he thanked students and faculty for their help in passing Proposition 30.

"You did heroic work here," Brown told them. "It did go against the trend and some people's expectations, but it really is sorely needed. Of course it's not a panacea, so we are going to have to continue to manage our resources very carefully. I understand the fee proposal was an effort to do that – to free up seats, to get more kids into the university. So we'll take a look at that. We all will, and I want to participate."

Last week's approval of Proposition 30 means UC and CSU will each get an additional $125 million in state funding next year. Yet even with the new revenue coming in, Brown told trustees there would still be "very tough decisions ahead."

"Keeping down fees means you've got to keep down costs. And it also means we have to find more state revenue if we want to really invest in our higher education," Brown said. "We have a lot of other claimants who are looking for money from the state budget."

Brown urged students, faculty and administrators to tone down their "adversarial relationship."

"We got a vote of confidence, and now let's measure up to the expectations of the voters," Brown said. "That means getting out of our comfort zone, whether we are trustees or faculty or administrators or students, or anyone else. The taxpayers got out of their comfort zone, and we have to follow suit."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who criticized Brown during the campaign for misleading college students on the extent to which tuition increases could be avoided by Proposition 30, released a statement Tuesday praising Cal State for tabling the item.

"For more than a decade, California's higher education system (has) been held hostage by the volatility of the state's revenues. CSU, along with UC and community colleges, must find solutions that end the vicious cycle of drastic cuts and fee hikes," it said.

"Our higher education system and economy cannot meet its potential unless this catastrophic trend is reversed."

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Read more articles by Laurel Rosenhall

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