UC President Drake testimony before Assembly Budget Subcommittee

Feb. 21, 2023

UC President Michael V. Drake delivered the following remarks at an Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 Overview Hearing on February 21, 2023. 

Good morning, Chair McCarty and members of the committee. Nice to see you. And thank you for giving me the opportunity today to discuss our common vision for the University of California and the University’s efforts to support the needs and priorities of our state.

My priorities for the University are to expand student opportunity and academic excellence; to strengthen an inclusive, respectful, and safe university community; to lead on the big challenges facing California like climate change; and to serve the people of California by promoting health across the state, including in our most vulnerable communities.

These priorities are based on the needs of California and Californians – in all that we do, the University seeks to contribute solutions to the significant issues facing our state and to continually evolve to serve our University community and the people of California.

Working toward equity and justice is a critical part of our vision for a University that serves all of California. This ideal is woven into the University’s work and we believe that each member of the University community is responsible for moving forward toward that goal. Equity and inclusion are key motivators for the University’s Compact with the Governor.

The Compact is centered on the key pillars of access, student success, debt-free education, and intersegmental collaboration – goals I know that I share with the Legislature as well. The five percent base budget increase proposed by the Governor will provide much-needed budget stability and allow our campuses to admit more students. It will also enable us to make critical long-term investments in our students, faculty, research and infrastructure. I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for the proposed funding increase, and I ask for your support in providing these funds to the University.

As we work to build a more just and equitable University, we want to increase the number of students, particularly California students, who have the opportunity to attend one of our campuses. Over the next decade, we plan to steadily grow the University’s enrollment by more than 23,000 state-supported students. I am committed to providing equitable opportunities to Californians by continually increasing access to a University of California education. This will be possible with the support from the Compact and the Legislature, and will build on the over 13,000 California undergraduate student growth the Legislature has funded since 2017.

UC campuses were able to hold enrollment steady through the COVID-19 pandemic – a period of intense uncertainty and upheaval. This was not the case for many universities across the country. The University of California admitted a record number of California first-year students for the fall of 2022, with an increase in the number of underrepresented students as well. The proposed 2023-24 five percent base budget increase will support the addition of over 2,000 more California undergraduates to our campuses. But that will not be the end of our growth.

For the 2023-24 year, UC campuses are planning to grow by over 4,200 California undergraduates. This figure includes the replacement of 900 nonresident students with California residents at our Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego campuses. This robust undergraduate growth will happen in tandem with graduate enrollment growth. Our Compact agreement with the Governor includes growing graduate student enrollment by 2,500 students by the year 2026-27 and we are working hard to achieve the agreed benchmarks.

Growing enrollment must be accompanied by efforts to nurture student success for all. It’s not enough to simply increase the number of students we serve. We must take steps to ensure that these new students have access to the academic opportunities and student support services that make a UC education so unique and desirable. The University has taken steps to promote student success and a positive student experience, including the establishment of basic needs centers on all of our campuses and increasing the number of mental health counselors available to students. We are also in the process of establishing service centers for former foster youth and for carceral-system impacted students on all of our undergraduate campuses. This growing support infrastructure can help our students stay enrolled and complete their degrees in a timely fashion.

In partnership with the Legislature and the Governor, I am seeking ways to expand affordability for the University of California. My goal is to offer a path to a debt-free UC education to all California undergraduates by 2030. We are making progress toward this goal thanks to the significant new investments and state program enhancements created by the Legislature. We appreciate it.

The simplified Cal Grant program will provide additional assistance to older students. The expanded Middle Class Scholarship will provide critical cost-of-attendance funding to low- and middle-income students. Along with recent increases in federal Pell Grants, these state programs will provide critical assistance to California students pursuing a UC education that can lead to a successful career path and economic stability. Providing robust financial assistance to students while they are pursuing their degrees allows them to focus on learning and personal growth during their time at the University. Decreasing debt increases students’ flexibility as they consider what path to take after graduation, opening opportunities in areas from entrepreneurship to public service. Increasing the number of students who graduate without debt is not just good for the students and their families, it’s good for the state.

Lastly, our efforts prioritize collaboration with our public higher education partners: the California State University and the California Community Colleges. A prime example of our intersegmental collaboration is the Cradle to Career system, a partnership between the Governor, state agencies, and the public higher education segments. This system will deliver critical information on education, financial aid, and career outcomes to prepare students to reach their college and career goals. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the State in this way, and we look forward to collaborating on the work ahead.

At the University of California, we are driven by our public service mission and commitment to California in everything we do. We are committed to continuing to provide life-changing educational opportunities, to producing cutting-edge research solutions, and to offering top-rated health care for Californians. From bringing agricultural programs to all 58 counties to fostering economic growth throughout California, we’re working every day to ensure that the positive impact of the University of California is felt in every corner of the state. Stable funding for the University is critical to our ability to keep up this momentum and to improve the lives of everyone living in our great state.

I want to thank Chair McCarty and members of the Budget Committee for your continued partnership as we continue to strengthen and expand the reach of the University. We would not be able to have the impact we have without your support, and I appreciate your continued collaboration. I look forward to working with you this year and in the future to ensure that we continue to grow and serve California together. Thank you.