Governor Brown signed into law the state’s annual budget in late June, which included an increase in funding for the UC and the implementation of the Middle Class Scholarship Act. The budget — which was actually signed on time — totaled to $96.3 billion in spending with $9.9 billion going to higher education. The budget allocated $2.67 billion to the UC, which is a five percent increase from last year. For two consecutive years, UC students will not see a rise in tuition.
“We are hopeful that its multi-year UC funding plan — as well as the new Middle Income Scholarship Program — will permit campuses to hire more faculty, add much needed course sections, increase staff support and provide a new level of affordability to the university’s students and their families,” said UC Vice President for Budget and Capital Resources, Patrick Lenz. “The additional $142 million earmarked for the university will allow us to fund a new school of medicine in Riverside, expand a system wide online learning initiative and construct more classrooms at UC Merced.”
Proposition 30 — an initiative passed by voters in November that raised taxes for more public education funding — and an increase in state revenue account for the upgrades in this year’s spending. The budget was designed in mind for a long-term regeneration of funding for the CSU and UC system with annual funding beginning at $250 million, which will eventually grow to over $1 billion by 2016-17.
According to a budget summary released by the California Department of Finance, “The budget establishes the first-year investment in a multiyear stable funding plan for higher education. It provides new funds to reinvest in the public universities with the expectation that the universities will improve the quality, performance, and cost-effectiveness of their educational systems.”
Though these budgetary increases will benefit the public higher education system in California, they will not fully solve all financial cuts and problems the system has suffered in the last few years. While additional financial aid opportunities with the Middle Class Scholarship Act will open in the coming years, the Cal Grant program’s cuts will not be fully restored.
The Middle Class Scholarship Act passed in the form of legislative bill AB 94 with bipartisan support in both the state senate and assembly. The program will cut tuition at the UC by 40 percent for families making under $100,000 and by 10 percent for families making under $150,000.
According to the California Speaker of the Assembly website, “California universities have seen historically high fee hikes over the past 10 years with tuition rates increasing by over 190 percent at UCs and by about 145 percent at CSUs. Students at UCs and CSUs currently pay an annual tuition of $12,192 and $5,472 respectively. This legislation will dramatically lower the college fees to $7,315 at UCs and $3,283 at CSUs beginning in the 2014-15 school year for families making under $100,000 a year.”
While the students suffered losses at the federal level with inaction that resulted in the doubling of student loan interest rates, this statewide plan will help offset these financial set backs for California college students. The plan will begin taking effect in the coming school years, but will not be fully funded until the 2017-2018 school year.
“With the governor’s reforms to education funding, we can ensure that schools will have the resources they need to ensure that every single student has a solid foundation for success in life. It will ensure the schools and districts who need the most assistance will receive the support they need, and that is a crucial investment in our future,” said Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez said. “And I am certainly honored to be here as the governor signs the Middle Class Scholarship Act into law.”