SILICON VALLEY MERCURY NEWS. MAY 14, 2013. Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget proposal calls for spending more on the state's colleges and universities each year through 2016-17 -- and for a 4-year tuition freeze at CSU and UC.
But the plan the governor unveiled Tuesday backs away from the more sweeping changes he had proposed for California's three public college systems.
Among the higher education reforms he scrapped or postponed: capping the number of units students can take while receiving state tuition subsidies, shifting adult education programs from K-12 districts to community colleges, and funding community colleges based on how many students complete a term, rather than by a count taken a few weeks into the semester.
"I'm really pleased that the things we were most concerned about have pretty much gone away," said Michelle Pilati, president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.
The governor has long stressed the need for California's higher-education systems to graduate students more quickly and improve graduation and community college transfer rates. But some have argued that some students racked up more units than they needed through no fault of their own -- that they couldn't get into required classes because of cutbacks, but still had to maintain a full course load to keep their financial aid benefits.
On Tuesday, Brown defended the unit cap proposal before explaining why he abandoned it.
"Here's the idea: If they get through in four years instead of seven we can have more students, and the students don't borrow as much," and they'll enter the workforce more quickly, Brown said.
He added, "When you start adding caps here and there ... people get nervous. Like everything else, we take it in steps: two steps forward, one step back."
The budget plan would give the state's community colleges 30.7 percent more, an extra $1,503, to spend per student by 2017 than it did in 2012, according to a summary document provided by the governor's office. California State University would receive a 33 percent increase during that time -- an additional $1,900 per student -- and the University of California would get 23.4 percent more, about $2,500.
The extra funding would allow room for up to 40,000 more students next year in the 2.4-million student community college system, said Paul Feist, a spokesman for the chancellor's office. Rising demand and budget cuts have shut out some 600,000 students in recent years.
Some advocates were pleased by the governor's continued emphasis on accountability and funding for student advising. Instead of dinging community colleges each time a student drops out midsemester, the governor's new plan more than doubles the funding for student support services such as advising and planning, with a $99 million budget for 2013-14, according to an analysis by the Community College League of California.
"For us, this idea of investing in community colleges and student success is going to be critical to the well-being of the state," said Jessie Ryan, associate director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
Neither CSU nor UC responded immediately to the tuition-freeze proposal, though the system's leaders are likely to discuss it during a public board of regents meeting Wednesday in Sacramento. In January, the governor said he expected the universities to keep their tuition and fees flat, but the May document uses stronger language.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White called the funding proposal "a critical investment in the future of California."
A brief statement by the UC's budget chief, Patrick Lenz, noted the proposed investment by the state over time -- 4 to 5 percent per year, though 2016 -- and then asked for more: "UC will continue working with the governor and the Legislature to address critical funding needs, such as a $15 million budget augmentation for the UC Riverside School of Medicine, a capital facilities funding plan to provide student access and address seismic retrofit, and funding for the state's employer retirement contribution."