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Memories of Powell
What Price Glory?

University Communications

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What Price Glory?
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Two years ago, with the economy recovering and Democrats exploiting student fees as a campaign issue, Governor Wilson proposed a "compact with higher education" to stabilize fee increases and forestall further budget cuts. His proposal called for an annual 4-percent real increase in state appropriations to higher education and steady 10-percent student fee increases. So far, the state has done better than the compact provides. For the past two years, the Legislature has "bought out" the student fee increases by providing enough additional funding to replace revenue the fee hikes would have produced. The budget game is now played thusly: The UC Regents propose a student fee increase, the Legislature and governor come up with the extra money, the regents defer the increase. It appears to be working: With fees stabilized, enrollments have begun to recover. The entering UC class this fall was the largest since 1991.

The game will be played again this spring for the 1997-'98 budget cycle. For the third year in a row, UC officials proposed a fee increase -- 9.7 percent this time, which would cost the state an estimated $33 million to absorb. This time around, however, the university did not seek a total buyout of the proposed increase. Included in the $370 in added fees each student may be required to pay is a $40 "technology fee" intended to generate a $4-million down payment on the overhaul and modernization of UC's computer systems and teaching technologies. UC President Richard Atkinson says he wants this new fee imposed on students systemwide, regardless of what the state does. He also anticipates increasing the technology fee each year into the foreseeable future.

Last fall, Atkinson argued that the proposed fee hikes are in keeping with the compact made with higher education by the governor, and that it is time for the university to uphold its end of the bargain. "There is no question the university has been faced with very tough problems these last few years," Atkinson says, "but I think we have served the state well. Now we must ensure that our programs remain of high quality."

Earlier this month, however, Governor Wilson proposed a full buyout of student fee increases -- including the technology tax -- and proposed providing additional funding for one of Atkinson's highest priorities: increasing UC faculty pay. Currently UC professors are paid an average of $73,000 a year, but still lag about 3 percent behind faculty at comparable institutions.

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2005 The Regents of the University of California