uc merced day
gets capitol 'a'

By Cori Lucero, External Relations

"uc merced is growing into maturity in spite of a severe recession followed by years of insufficient state investment."

Seeking Support in Sacramento

UC Merced students, alumni, leaders and supporters were in Sacramento in April to advocate for full state funding for the University of California and to promote the unique opportunities and challenges that face the rapidly growing campus. Chancellor Dorothy Leland led the group through the first “UC Merced Day” in the Capitol, a new biennial counterpoint to the traditional UC Day.

The chancellor joined with students to generate legislative support for the UC, which now educates 90,000 more students than it did in 2000, but with the same level of state funding. The UC’s financial pains are felt acutely at its youngest and fastest-growing campus.

Chancellor Dorothy Leland with the UC Merced delegation on the steps of the state Capitol.

“UC Merced is growing into maturity in spite of a severe recession followed by years of insufficient state investment,” Leland said. “That we are now thriving is a testament to the pioneering spirit and tireless dedication of our campus community, but we need additional support from the Legislature and the governor if we are to continue our upward trajectory into the future.”

The Merced group also included former UC Regent Fred Ruiz, who has been a strong advocate for the appointment of regents who hail from or have strong ties to the Central Valley.

The Board of Regents, appointed by the governor, has 26 seats — no current regents are from the Valley, including four who were appointed earlier this month, and one vacancy remains. Ruiz, also a UC Merced Foundation Board member and longtime campus supporter, asked legislators to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to strongly consider nominees from one of the state’s most underrepresented regions.

“By appointing a UC regent from the Valley, the governor would not just check a demographic or geographic box,” Ruiz, a regent for 12 years before stepping down in 2016, wrote in the Sacramento Bee earlier this year. “He would signal that in our vast, diverse state, it is possible for the next generation of academic and economic leaders to succeed regardless of where they are from.”

Joining Leland and Ruiz were UC Merced Foundation Trustees Jack Oswald, Daryl Hatano, Kevin Dasso, Ross Gentry, Vikram Lakireddy, Monya Lane and Ralph Ochoa; as well as UC Merced alumni and students.

Putting the Tuition Hike on Hold

In June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the final budget of his eight-year tenure in office. The $201.4-billion plan for Fiscal Year 2018-19 includes $98.1 million more in ongoing funding and $248.8 million more in one-time funding for the University of California than the preceding year.

The ongoing funding includes a 3 percent base budget increase at $92.1 million, $5 million to support 500 new California undergraduates in 2018-19, and $1 million to support the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. The one-time funding includes $107 million in instructional funds, $6.7 million for campus life and student well-being, $35 million for deferred maintenance, $55 million for health-related initiatives, $15.5 million for research initiatives, with the remainder going to various other programs.

"UC and UC Merced will continue advocacy efforts to secure adequate funding from the state to support increased demand."

While UC is glad to see the increased funding that allows it to put off a tuition increase for California students in 2018-19, it still does not permanently address the unfunded enrollment growth the UC assumed to keep pace with increasing demand.

In the coming year, under a new governor and administration, UC and UC Merced will continue advocacy efforts to secure adequate funding from the state to support increased demand for qualified students seeking a world-class education.

Cori Lucero is the Executive Director of Government and Community Relations for UC Merced. Formerly editorial director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Cori spent four years working on Capitol Hill before returning to the San Joaquin Valley to advocate at all levels of government for the newest UC campus. She is a graduate of UC San Diego.