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UC Students, Leaders Unite in Sacramento

March 3, 2010

MERCED, CA—UC administration and student
leaders forged a united front in Sacramento when they joined forces
to press lawmakers to fully fund the university and student
financial aid.

“The students were on point, passionate advocates for the
university system,” UC President Mark Yudof said after a day of
joint meetings with legislators that culminated in a discussion
with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I think together with the
chancellors and regents, we were a formidable team and made our case.”

The message for the March 1 advocacy day was to fund UC’s
budget, fully support Cal Grants to keep up with rising fees and
reinvest in the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education.

“We offer a unique perspective when students and regents are
lobbying together to focus on the personal stories and the big
picture,” said Jesse Cheng, the student regent-designate. Cheng
said he wanted to help legislators see the connection between the
decisions they make and how they affect the lives of students.

Leaders from the systemwide UC Student Association joined Yudof,
UC Regents Russell Gould, Richard Blum and Monica Lozano and
chancellors George Blumenthal (UC Santa Cruz), Michael Drake (UC
Irvine), Linda Katehi (UC Davis), Timothy White (UC Riverside) and
Henry Yang (UC Santa Barbara) in visiting lawmakers. Another 200 to
300 students took part in a march and rally at the Capitol to press
for greater support and lower fees.

During a visit with the governor, Yudof emphasized the
importance of fully funding the Cal Grant program. “In an era of
rising fees, there is no way we can provide access to low- and
moderate-income students without Cal Grants,” he said.

Victor Sanchez, president of the UC Student Association, and
Terrell Green, an association board member and vice president of
external affairs of the UC San Diego Graduate Student Association,
joined Yudof and the three regents in their talk with the governor.

“A lot of our students are being pushed out,” Sanchez told
Schwarzenegger. “Students aren’t as engaged as they’d like to be
because they have to work.”

Green, a doctoral student in bioengineering, stressed the role
higher education plays in the state’s economy.

“You can see clearly that graduate research leads to new
businesses,” she said.

The governor said he agreed with what the students were saying.

“I think everyone at this table is in sync as to what our goal
is,” Schwarzenegger said. “The only way to get there is to have a
budget system and a tax system that gives us stability.”

Schwarzenegger blamed California’s financial instability on the
Legislature’s unwillingness to change the budget process, adopt his
idea of a rainy day reserve fund or reform the tax system.

He urged students to pressure their legislators to institute
these changes, which he said would make more money available for
higher education.

The amount the state contirbutes per UC studetns has declined by
more than half since 1990. Last year UC suffered a 20 percent cut
in state funding. To recover from years of declining state support,
UC has requested from the state in its 2010-11 budget $913 million
more than the $2.6 billion the university received in 2009-10. The
state spending plan the governor introduced in January had $371
million in additional funds. Yudof said if the final state budget
includes the $371 million for UC the university would be able to
stabilize its finances. But the closer the state comes to the $913
million request, the better off UC will be, Yudof said.

“We’ve improved the relationship between the administrators and
the students,” Yudof said in summing up the advocacy effort. “I
think we scored some points with legislators. I feel very good
about the day, but I don’t kid myself. We have a long way to go.”

On April 27, Yudof will join the leaders of the California State
University and California Community Colleges in another advocacy
day in Sacramento. He said students need to keep up the pressure on
the legislators to fully support UC’s budget request.


Donna Hemmila