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Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown on Public Higher Ed

California’s gubernatorial debate on September 28, 2010:

Capital Public Radio’s Marianne Russ asked the question we (and others, apparently, as she attributed the question to a UC student) asked her to ask during yesterday’s debate: “As Governor would you roll back all of the funding cuts to the UC, CSU and CC systems, why or why not.” I have not been able to find a transcript of the debate, but I typed up what the two candidates said:

Russ: As Governor would you roll back all of the funding cuts to the UC, CSU and CC systems, why or why not.

Brown: Would I roll all the fees back Not my first year, with a 19 billion dollar deficit; we have to be realistic here. I certainly wouldn’t’t want to see fees go up. I went to UC, so did my mother. And when she went tuition was $22 per semester. And when I went 30 years later it was $120, and now it is astronomically higher than that. I care
about this university. It is the key to our future; not only our technological future but our intellectual and civic future. So, I am going to do everything I can to protect the University and advance its cause. And I am going to do that by being tough on the budget, getting real with these legislators, living within our means and building up this surplus. And certainly no driving a hole in the general fund of $5 billion giving this tax break to the very wealthy, because the university derives all of its state support from the general fund. In fact, the University support is about 2.5 billion which is a significant part of the 5 billion. So, yes, I care about the University, I’ll try to hold down fees as best I can, but we are in a tough bind and we are all going to have to sacrifice. But I’d say those at the top, those at the commanding heights of our economy, should tuck in their belts first.

Russ: So, just to clarify, are you pledging to hold the line on further tuition increases?

Brown: I’d do the best I can. As you know, I’d have one vote as the chairman, and in the past I used to have a few disagreements with the Regents. Look, I’d love to roll back the fees, I’d love to have a freeze, but that would require either the university becoming a lot more efficient than it is or the state finding billions of dollars that it doesn’t yet have. One way or another, we are going to protect UC.

Russ: Ms. Whitman, what’s your take on the funding cuts for the Universities and colleges?

Whitman: It breaks my heart. Every day I talk to children who are at UC who have had to take a semester off. I ran in to a young man the other day who couldn’t go back to UCB because fees had gone up by 32 percent and his father had lost his job. So here is my plan for the UC system, and the CSU system by the way. Higher education is one of the gems of our education system in California. Of the top 15 public universities in
the county, we have 6 of them. So, while we are fixing K-12 education, which I’m sure we’ll talk about in a minute, we can not lose our innovation edge, with UC and CSU. So, I want to reduce costs of this government and take a billion dollars and put it back in the UC system. So I want to streamline the size of government. We’ve got to get back to an employee count of where we were just five years ago. The state now has more bureaucrats then active duty personnel in the US Navy. We have to reform our pension program as we’ve talked about, we have got to reform our welfare program. Today we have 12 percent of the population of the US and 32 percent of the welfare cases. We have 5 times the welfare cases of New York and only twice the population. And frankly,
it’s a budget issue but also a strength of our community issue. We’ve got to put Californians back to work. Welfare can’t become a way of life. So I’ve got some very specific plans to reform welfare, take some of that savings and put it back into higher education. And then, last, we have got to run the government more efficiently. You know what is ironic: we have the most dysfunctional state government, and yet I come from a part of the state where we have the most innovative companies in the world. We have to take some of that managerial expertise and
innovation and say how do we run the government more efficiently; how we can invest in the things we really care about, of which the UC and CSU system are at the top of the list.

Russ: What about the fee hikes themselves? Would you use the money to hold the line on future tuition hikes, or roll them back?

Whitman: I would, actually, put it to the chancellors and say “how do you think we should best use this money? If we can give you back $1 billion over the next two or three years, would you want to invest that in research and faculty? Reduced fees? What’s the best way to make your campuses great for every child?” So I’d actually ask them what they thought since they are battling the challenges in the budget every single day.

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