We find it absolutely stunning that the two management boards of California’s university systems had planned to again raise student fees just days after voters narrowly approved a tax increase that spared those institutions about $250 million in promised cuts.
Proponents of the tax increase, most notably Gov. Jerry Brown, had canvassed the state and virtually begged voters to pass Proposition 30, saying that the "temporary” taxes were needed to help bridge gaps in education funding. They assured us that they were being responsible and that passing the proposition would steady the ship so that more permanent solutions could be found.
But even before the votes could be certified, the management boards of the University of California and California State University appeared poised to pass planned fees increases to the students, despite the increased tax revenues.
Talk about tone deaf. Doing so would clearly have been a breach of faith with the voters.
To his credit, Brown recognized the ill will that would be generated by such an action. He stepped in and convinced the boards not to take such actions. At least for now.
It was just last year that the CSU board got publicly scorched for handing San Diego State’s new president a $100,000 raise merely minutes after raising student tuition by another 12 percent.
While that could have been a teaching moment, apparently it wasn’t a learning moment for the CSU board.
We think Brown’s involvement saved them from themselves.
Brown convinced CSU trustees to pull a goofy proposal for new fees that would have penalized students who take more than the usual course load to complete a double major or to graduate early. Let’s penalize the motivated high performers. Brilliant.
Brown also cajoled UC regents to pull back on proposed fee hikes at several professional schools, including business, law, medicine and nursing.
In all fairness, we must commend the new incoming CSU Chancellor, Timothy P. White, who seems to understand the circumstance.
He took it upon himself to request a 10 percent pay cut from the $421,500 a year that his predecessor, Charles Reed, got to lead the 23-campus system.
While White’s move is symbolic — after all, his $380,000 salary is a significant jump from the $327,000 he received last year as president of UC Riverside — it does seem to demonstrate that the new chancellor understands that times are tight.
In his letter to the board, he acknowledged that faculty, staff and students have experienced substantial financial pain in the last four years and that he should, too.
That move does not surprise us at all. White has done an outstanding job as head of UC Riverside and has earned a reputation as a leader who pays close attention to constituencies, which in his case are students, teachers, staff and taxpayers.
Insight such as his will be a welcome relief to the management of our state’s universities.