SAN FRANCISCO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called on the University of California to contain costs, embrace online learning and rethink how it does business, even though voters approved new taxes to help fund education.
Brown made the plea at the UC board of regents meeting eight days after the passage of Proposition 30. The governor, students and university supporters campaigned heavily for the ballot measure, which temporarily raises the statewide sales tax and raises income taxes on wealthy residents.
"You've got to look for some cost savings," Brown said during his first UC board meeting as governor. "You don't want to raise fees. The state can give you more, but there's a limit."
At Brown's request, officials at UC and California State University systems on Tuesday postponed votes on raising student fees. The UC board had been scheduled to consider tuition increases for several professional degree programs.
On Wednesday, the governor urged the 10-campus system to expand the use of digital technology that will allow more students to take online courses for credit while UC saves money.
"In order to meet the needs going forward without constant large tuition increases, there will have to be different ways in which people learn and in which people teach," Brown told the board.
UC leaders agreed with the need to control costs, but noted the system has already reaped substantial savings over the past few years through consolidating administrative functions, restructuring debt and reducing pension and health benefits.
The governor said he's optimistic about the state's budget outlook, indicating Proposition 30 will provide needed tax revenue.
The nonpartisan legislative analyst said Wednesday that California is facing a much smaller deficit of $1.9 billion through the end of the next fiscal year and could even see surpluses over the next few years.
The UC board's finance committee has approved a preliminary budget for 2013-14 that seeks about $400 million more in state funding than the $2.4 billion the system received in 2012-13.
The tentative budget was approved ahead of the months-long state budget process that will determine how much public funding is allocated for California's public colleges and universities.
Five years ago, UC received more than $3.2 billion in state funding, but that was before the financial crisis that led to deep budget cuts and steep tuition hikes.
Raquel Morales, president of the UC Students Association, urged the board and governor to prevent a tuition increase next year.
"Students and their families will be angry and shocked if after voting for an $8 billion revenue increase they will continue to pay more and get less out of the University of California," said Morales, a senior at UC San Diego.
UC President Mark Yudof thanked the governor and university community for campaigning for the tax initiative.
"The University of California, for the first time in my four years here, finally has a clear shot at attaining a sense of fiscal stability," Yudof said. "This is an achievement worth celebrating."
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