Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Assembly digs into UC financial aid for out-of-state students

Students walk through Sather Gate at the University of California, Berkeley.
Students walk through Sather Gate at the University of California, Berkeley. The Associated Press file

As controversy brews around surging out-of-state enrollment at the University of California, officials have defended the practice as a financial benefit: Nonresidents pay a $23,000 supplemental fee on top of their tuition, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars annually that can help pay for additional seats for Californians and other student services.

The arrangement may not be so simple, however. UC spent $32 million on financial aid for out-of-state students during the 2013-14 academic year, according to the Assembly budget subcommittee on education finance, which has been digging into the university’s spending as part of a “zero-based budgeting” process this year.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, said providing financial aid to out-of-state students “flies contrary to the premise” that UC has increased nonresident slots to raise much-needed revenue amid state budget cuts driven by the economic recession.

“It doesn't make sense that we would be spending scarce resources to subsidize nonresident students,” McCarty said. “It makes no sense.”

While the university has so far declined to discuss the nonresident aid, Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom will answer lawmaker questions during a committee hearing, 4 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol, which will also cover the UC’s rising retirement costs.

Enrollment has been central to the ongoing budget battle between the university and Gov. Jerry Brown. In January, Brown added a cap on out-of-state students to his proposed general fund allocation for UC.

McCarty said the Assembly’s own budget proposal, to be unveiled next week, will likely include a funding increase for UC with “some strings attached.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?: As the Assembly advances a bill that would provide financial relief and legal aid to former students of Corinthian Colleges, the Senate is also considering how it might help those affected by the recent sudden closure of the for-profit chain. A joint hearing of the Senate committees on education and business, professions and economic development, 10 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol, will examine how state agencies and other California educational institutions are assisting Corinthian students. Perhaps the most pressing lingering issue is how to handle the heavy debt load that many of them now carry.

SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE: Catch Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, as a mad scientist at the annual State Scientist Day celebration on the west steps of the Capitol. The event, organized by the California Association of Professional Scientists, promotes science education with a mobile veterinary lab, an earthquake machine, live insects and other hands-on exhibits from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Gonzalez will take part in the mad science demonstration for thousands of elementary school students at 10:30 a.m.

TRAVELIN’ SOLDIER: California veterans groups are joining together for a legislative day at the Capitol to advocate for bills that would exempt veterans organizations from property taxes, increase funding for county veterans service officers, and expand in-state tuition options for veterans from outside California. Attendees will hear from Sens. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, and Assemblymembers Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, Young Kim, R-Fullerton, Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, and Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, starting at 9 a.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol. Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, will also receive Legislator of the Year awards from the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter.

NEVER AGAIN: Attorney General Kamala Harris will unveil a new initiative to tackle campus sexual assault, 1 p.m. at the Attorney General’s Office in Los Angeles. She will be joined by UC President Janet Napolitano, who announced a new sexual violence policy at the university last year that expanded protections for victims, increased reporting requirements and introduced new training. Following student complaints at several campuses over how sexual assault cases were being handled, California has taken a lead on the issue, passing the nation’s first “yes means yes” consent law.

Alexei Koseff: (916) 321-5236, @akoseff