January 22, 2015 / 8:38 AM / 3 years ago

California governor and university chief to hash out tuition spat

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks during a meeting on a vote to raise tuition for the University of California system at UC San Francisco in San Francisco, California in this November 19, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach/Files

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The governor and the powerful University of California chief will hash out their differences over tuition hikes and state funding in an unusual two-person advisory committee, a panel of the university’s governing board has decided.

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat and fiscal moderate whose belt-tightening helped stabilize state finances, has proposed increasing funding for the UC system this year by $120 million, or 4 percent, but only if the 10-campus network agrees to freeze tuition fees.

But UC President Janet Napolitano has demanded Brown nearly double the funding increase to avoid annual tuition hikes of 5 percent over the next five years, which opponents say would make college too costly for many California students already paying about $12,000 a year in tuition.

Seeking to resolve the standoff, a committee of the university’s governing Board of Regents voted on Wednesday to send the matter to a two-person advisory committee consisting of Brown, who was just re-elected to a fourth term, and Napolitano, who ran the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before taking on her UC role.

“I don’t know we’ll have unanimity, but we won’t have any more than two opinions, and that’s good,” Brown told a regents meeting in San Francisco.

University of California President Janet Napolitano (L) and California Governor Jerry Brown are seen during a meeting to vote on raising tuition, at the University of California, San Francisco, in this combination photograph made of file photos taken November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach/Files

The move to send the matter back to Brown and Napolitano is to be voted on by a full regents panel on Thursday and is expected to pass.

The first three-hour session of the Select Advisory Committee on the Cost Structure of the University is expected to take place on Jan. 26. A preliminary report is due in March.

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks to reporters while proposing his 2015-16 state budget in Sacramento, California, January 9, 2015. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

The acrimonious face-off has been shaping up as one of the biggest budget challenges for the nation’s most populous state heading into the new fiscal year starting July 1.

The panel is expected to explore money-saving reforms as the UC system faces higher enrollment and increasing pension costs. Among the many proposals are online classes and incentives to get students to graduate faster.

The state spends about $3 billion a year on the University of California, about 11 percent of the system’s budget.

Brown has called for cost-cutting measures and objected to high salaries for top UC administrators. Napolitano counters that expenditures in many areas have already been cut and can’t be reduced more. She has resisted reducing executive salaries.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Steve Gorman and Dominic Evans

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