Colleges free to spend under Brown’s budget 

click to enlarge Gov. Jerry Brown wants to give a pile of money to the university systems with no performance expectations. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP File Photo
  • Gov. Jerry Brown wants to give a pile of money to the university systems with no performance expectations.

During his campaign to persuade voters to pass the Proposition 30 tax increase last fall, Gov. Jerry Brown was given the run of college and university campuses all over the state for voter registration drives, rallies and get-out-the-vote efforts. Young voters, lured by promises of no tuition hikes, turned out in big numbers to support the proposition, and now he’s repaying the favor.

In his proposed budget for 2013-14, Brown allocates a quarter of a billion dollars to the University of California and California State University systems with no strings attached. Well, he’s got expectations, like improved graduation rates and course completion, but there are no benchmarks to measure progress.

Specifically, this year’s budget proposes that $125 million apiece go to the UC and CSU systems for fun (and another $125 million to each in exchange for their promise not to increase tuition until 2017). None of this fun money is tied to actual enrollment increases or other performance factors. The $250 million figure represents a 5 percent increase in the base allocation to the schools, and Brown proposes another 5 percent increase next year and a 4 percent increase for each of the subsequent two years.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office hinted at the hypocrisy in this proposal in its initial analysis of the budget when it wrote, “Despite the governor’s concern that the state’s public higher education system is inefficient, costly, and not producing acceptable outcomes, the central part of his multiyear plan is unallocated base increases.”
Brown’s approach, in short, is that higher education is broken and expensive, so here’s some more money — have fun at the mall.

A followup report dedicated to the governor’s budget for higher education is more specific. In a section titled, “Governor’s Overall Approach Unlikely to Improve System,” it says, “By providing the segments [that’s the term for colleges and universities] with large unallocated increases only vaguely connected to undefined performance expectations, the governor cedes substantial state responsibilities to the segments and takes key higher education decisions out of the Legislature’s control.”

As you might imagine, the governor’s “shut up and allocate $500 million” plan is not going over well in the Legislature, which is eager to impose specific performance requirements on the schools. The Governor’s Office says it will work with the Legislature to do just that, but developing a comprehensive set of requirements takes time and the June deadline for submitting the budget is fast approaching.

At a committee hearing on this last week, Brown’s representative — Nick Schweizer from the Department of Finance — was asked by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, for a specific date upon which the governor would propose a set of requirements. This was Schweizer’s response:

“We’re ... we’re ... hopefully in the next couple of weeks ... we need to, you know, work with ... uh ... you know ... we need to come up with ... uh ... the proposals and then certainly we need to consult with the governor to make sure ... um, he is ... uh, it reflects his thinking on it and then ... uh ... and then we’ll be ... you know, full speed ahead and ready to uh ... work this out.”

This is going to be a fiasco.

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at

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