State Legislators Question UC’s Budget Autonomy

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By Ashley Duong

State legislator Edward Hernandez of Senate District 22 proposed an amendment to California’s state constitution last Tuesday that would limit the financial autonomy of the UC Office of the President (UCOP). Senate Constitutional Amendment 14 (SCA 14) would implement several changes to both the control UCOP has over their budget as well as to the Board of Regents.

Following the recent state audit of UC, in which it was revealed that the UCOP was holding $175 million of undisclosed hidden reserve funds, many are calling for stronger oversight by the state over the UCs. Coupled with the recent vote by the Board of Regents, who were operating under the assumption that the UCs were in financial trouble, to raise UC tuition by 2.5 percent to bring in an additional $88 million per year, constituents are especially concerned and outraged at the news of the undisclosed funds.

Despite UCOP’s explanations for the large amount of unused funds and attempts to show that the reserve is actually only $38 million rather than the suggested $175 million, actions by the state, including the withholding of state funds allocated to the UC system, have begun to be proposed as leverage against the Office of the President to encourage action from the Office to amend the discrepancies found in their funds.

SCA 14, another move by the state to extend its control over UC funds and spending, assures in its press release that “the UC will continue to maintain the same academic independence it has enjoyed since 1879, but it will provide Californians with more oversight.”

Hernandez, who proposed the amendment, was quoted on the press release saying, “I believe education is the greatest equalizer and our students deserve to have all the support necessary in order to succeed. The recent report from the State Auditor makes it clear that change is needed within the system.”

The amendment also moves to give the Chancellor of the Community Colleges a seat on the Board of Regents as well as reduce “appointed members’ terms from 12 years to 4 years, with a maximum of 3 terms.”

The amendment is one of many moves by the state legislature to slowly subsume more control over the public university.

If passed by two-thirds of each chamber of the California State Legislature, California voters will be given an opportunity to vote on the amendment in Nov. 2018.

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