When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the 2010-2011 budget earlier this month, both student and university level advocates saw it as a culmination of their year-long efforts to lobby for state support of public higher education.
The budget, which includes $199 million in state funds and $106 million in one-time federal stimulus funds, is a positive step forward for recovering funding to UC, but there’s still a long way to go, advocates said.
“We’re pleased with the budget outcome this year,” said Jason Murphy, director of State Government Relations and Advocacy. “But we as a system were still behind where we were in 2008-09. There are still cuts that need to be restored.”
For Murphy, the process began in advance of the governor’s budget proposal in January. His office coordinated visits by students, alumni, faculty and staff and in some instances Chancellor Linda Katehi to Sacramento to discuss the importance of state funding to UC.
In spring, the university’s state delegation met with state legislators. In March, UCD advocates, including Katehi, joined UC President Mark Yudof as well as other chancellors and regents at the capitol to promote state funding for UC and full support of Cal Grants.
In April, the UC along with representatives from the CSUs and community colleges promoted a broader message of defending public higher education. The campus also asked members of Aggie Advocates to send e-mails and make phone calls during the summer budget process.
This mirrored the efforts of Lobby Corps, the ASUCD unit that recruits students to lobby on behalf of UC Davis students. However Aaron Giampietro, the new director of Lobby Corps, noted the message to legislators also centered on spending UC funds wisely and transparently, in addition to preserving support.
“Last year we spent a lot of time making sure the money we were allotted was being used to its full extent,” Giampietro said.”That we could understand what’s happening with our money and make sure our students and employees have a more transparent system.”
The unit researched and supported two bills that were signed by the governor in mid-September: AB 1436 which would require the UC regents to make available live online broadcasts of their meetings, and SB 650 which would place UC employees under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Despite these gains, campus advocates are aware the tentative nature of state funding to the UC. The budget only restores $371 million out of $637.1 million cut from 2009-2010, and the system still faces a $200 million shortfall.
As a result, the regents are expected to consider hiking tuition up to 20 percent at their upcoming meeting in November, with each percent increase to generate $21.8 million. Katehi has expressed hopes that an increase would not exceed inflation, or about 4 to 5 percent.
“There’s still going to be plenty of need in the UC system for state funds,” said Murphy, who will likely coordinate additional lobbying efforts when the state’s new governor prepares his or her budget.
Giampietro is also focused on preparing Lobby Corps for another year of student advocacy.
“Just because this is a good year for higher education, it doesn’t mean we’re going to change our message,” he said. “We’re still going to be the professional and efficient lobbyers trying to push for an efficient and transparent system.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.