By David Siders
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — University of California regents warned Wednesday of more potential tuition increases, while student protesters again disrupted a meeting of the university's governing board.
The UC system, which raised tuition last year by about 18 percent, is considering a 6 percent tuition increase this year.
Frustrated students, who have clashed with administrators over fees and service cuts for months, forced regents to break unexpectedly from the public portion of their meeting when about 18 protesters wearing prison garb started marching in a circle in the audience.
The students at the meeting, at the Sacramento Convention Center, complained they had been "sentenced to debt."
Regents were meeting in Sacramento for the first time since 1993, a bid to step up pressure on lawmakers and California Gov. Jerry Brown as they begin a new round of budget talks at the Capitol.
Although the university system fared less badly than it might have in the budget Brown proposed on Monday, it did not receive any of the $125 million in additional funding administrators say they need to avoid major service cuts or tuition increases.
The Democratic governor also has proposed a midyear cut of $250 million to the university system if his November ballot initiative to raise taxes fails.
"This gap, as it exists today, is horrific," said Sherry Lansing, chairwoman of UC's governing board, adding that if Brown's bid to raise taxes fails, the lack of funding will be "overwhelming."
A decision on tuition increases could be made in July.
Lansing said Wednesday that regents that month will also discuss the "future of UC," focusing on operations in an era of decreased spending.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a regent who has opposed tuition hikes, said that without such a "substantive, detailed conversation ... then our default will always be tuition increases."
The audience Wednesday included students from the University of California, Davis, where last year's pepper-spraying incident still resonates.
Students hissed when Nathan Brostrom, a UC vice president, said administrators have "full, unequivocal confidence" in UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.
A member of the audience yelled, "Is that a joke?"
Police presence at the meeting was heavy, but officials did not appear to intervene in the student protest, which petered out on its own within about 30 minutes.
"The UC regents are closer to Wall Street than they are to the people of California," said one of the protesters, University of California, Berkeley student Charlie Eaton.
With Newsom dissenting, regents voted to pay the incoming chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, Pradeep Khosla, an annual salary of $411,084, a 4.8 percent increase over his predecessor's pay. The increase is to be funded by non-state sources such as university auxiliary groups, officials said.
(c)2012 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
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