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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

UC president Mark Yudof asks Washington for more funds

Amid state cuts to college budgets, the University of California is seeking additional revenue from the federal government.

According to an article in The Sacramento Bee, UC president Mark Yudof is asking that Washington expand funding to the UCs. This would be in addition to $700 million in stimulus dollars already provided.

Stressing the importance of a national strategy for higher education, Yudof said that the extra money would supplement state funds, not replace them.

“I still think the primary responsibility lies with the state of California,” Yudof said in the Sacramento Bee article. “I have not given up on the state.”

Yudof’s request comes at a time when other UC leaders are also looking to increase federal spending for public education.

In a September column for the Washington Post, UC Berkeley’s chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau and vice chancellor Frank D. Yeary floated a plan to increase the federal government’s stake in public education.

Their ideas included setting aside funds to guarantee that both in-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition and have access to the same financial aid packages. Federal funding would also have to match philanthropic endowments by a 2 to 1 ratio.

They also called on President Barack Obama to enact a modern version of the Morrill Land Grant Act. The legislation, which was signed in 1862 and 1890, gave states federal land to establish “land-grant” universities. The campuses of the UC system are all land grant institutions.

“The need for an alternative model to preserve the public character of our great universities is increasingly urgent. This is one model, but there may be other, and more attractive, options.” Birgeneau and Yeary wrote. “Simply put, no matter what the form, we must take some radical steps if we are to preserve the public character of America’s great public universities.”

UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi emphasized the necessity of federal government support for land grant universities because of their broad influence on forming national policy, education, workforce and industry.

“Land-grant universities have grown to be national treasures, with their impact extending far beyond their state borders,” Katehi said in an e-mail interview. “That’s why it’s critical for the federal government to have a greater role in supporting them.”

Harold Levine, professor and dean at the UC Davis School of Education, expressed similar sentiments. He said that while our universities are still prominent in the world, negligence would be detrimental to the nation.

“Our system of higher education, though in a financial downward spiral in much of the U.S., still remains the gold standard for much of the world,” Levine said in an e-mail interview. “Losing that pre-eminence will do long-lasting harm to our state and country.”

Other forms of revenue are being explored. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, California Assembly Leader Alberto Torrico (D) has proposed an oil severance tax that would help fund California’s public universities. Companies would have to pay 9.9 percent of the extracted oil’s gross value into a California Higher Education Fund.

California has reduced $813 million in funding to the UC system, forcing UC administrators to make up for the shortfall. They have implemented measures such as furloughs and cuts to academic programs to recoup the loss. A 32 percent raise in tuition is also under consideration in November.

In response, UC students, faculty and staff have protested both the cuts and the administrations’ measures. On Sep. 24, thousands expressed their disapproval in a systemwide walkout.

LESLIE TSAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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