Capitol Alert

Bill would create new tech-focused University of California campus

The University of California, Los Angeles, campus on Sept. 8, 2014.
The University of California, Los Angeles, campus on Sept. 8, 2014. The New York Times

The University of California and Gov. Jerry Brown are currently embroiled in a heated showdown over the system’s finances and admissions policy. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s novel solution: open a new tech-focused campus.

The Los Angeles Democrat announced a bill Monday that would set aside $50 million for a feasibility study, land acquisition and initial building costs for a “UC-Tech” campus centered on science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, as well as the arts.

“Now when we have these budget surpluses is the time for bold moves,” Gatto said.

The newest UC opened in Merced in 2005 and has not yet reached its capacity, but flagship campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles saw acceptance rates dip below 20 percent for the first time last year, and there is increasing pressure for the university to accept more California students.

Gatto said the proposed UC-Tech could be the public equivalent of the prestigious, private California Institute of Technology in Pasadena – an opportunity to expand enrollment while also promoting the kinds of graduates that California’s burgeoning tech industry is searching for.

“If you look at the people in California who are making big money...these subjects are wedding some kind of technology with some kind of creativity,” Gatto said. “There’s a tremendous value in having all the minds of a field together on a campus.”

He added that he is “certainly mindful of the tense situation” involving next year’s state budget for higher education. But “if people said that, as a result of this bill, we should just increase the overall funding for the UC system, I would consider that a victory,” Gatto said.

University of California officials were not immediately available for comment.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.