Debra J. Saunders

By Debra J. Saunders
Updated 3:39 pm, Friday, December 5, 2014

When Gov. Jerry Brown was pushing Proposition 30 in 2012, he sold his measure with the promise that the income and sales tax increases in his measure would put off sharp tuition increases in the UC and CSU systems. Sacramento increased state funding for the University of California and California State University by 5 percent annually for two years, then 4 percent annually for the next two years. Budget documents heralded a four-year deal that would keep tuition flat.

Two years into the deal, UC solons say there never was a deal to freeze tuition for four years. At the urging of UC President Janet Napolitano, the UC Board of Regents voted last month to raise tuition substantially — by up to 28 percent over five years — because there never was a meeting at which university officials pledged not to raise fees.

UC took the money. Now the regents are running from the understanding.

If the regents’ case of amnesia strikes you as cheesy, you are not alone. At last month’s meeting of the Board of Regents, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom observed that no one at UC spoke out when politicians and newspapers were reporting there would be no tuition increases. “I don’t know of any formal correspondence we sent to clarify and correct that,” he hectored. CSU just passed a budget that kept tuition fees flat. And: “I don’t recall any op-eds we put out. I don’t recall anyone standing up here in the last two years saying, ‘We never, sir, agreed to that, Mr. Governor.’”

Regents by virtue of their elected positions, Brown and Newsom both voted against the tuition increase.

Regent Richard Blum, a wealthy financier married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, voted in favor of the tuition increases because he wants to retain star academics. “I have in the last year funded a chair for somebody at Berkeley who was dramatically underpaid,” Blum explained, “One of our superstars who was gonna leave.”

Blum has been a generous patron to the UC system, but I think he’s wrong to contribute to the academic pay spiral. At the last regents’ meeting, Brown countered that he finds top talent willing to take pay cuts to serve on the California Supreme Court and in his government.

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