AUSTIN (AP) _ Squeezing a state legislature for more higher education money during a multibillion dollar state budget shortfall will be old hat for Mark Yudof, the presumptive next president of the University of California.
If the UC Board of Regents confirm Yudof as their next president as expected Thursday, he'll start the job staring down California's estimated $16 billion budget shortfall.
Nearly six years ago, Yudof began as chancellor of the University of Texas System in much the same way — pleading with Texas legislators for more money during the state's historic $10 billion budget shortfall.
"He's seen the budget shortfall movie before," said Republican Rep. Dan Branch, who served on the House budget-writing committee during the year of severe cuts to many state agencies and services. "It's an important skill and experience to have heading into some serious headwinds in Sacramento."
Despite the state's budget woes, Yudof walked away from that session with what higher education officials say was the most lucrative legislation the Texas system had seen.
"That session turned out to be one of our most successful in history," said Charles Miller, who was chairman of the UT Board of Regents at the time. "We got some legislation in place that we'd been working on for decades."
Lawmakers unexpectedly authorized $166 million in tuition revenue bonds for projects at a handful of UT system campuses and included about $500 million more in higher education funding than had been initially proposed.
The marquis accomplishment of that session — and arguably of his tenure at the system — was a tuition deregulation measure that allowed universities to set their own tuition rates. It's also been the source of one of the top criticisms lobbed at him, as tuition has soared more than 40 percent since then.
"The new president of the UC system is going to have to look for ways to find dollars in a difficult climate," Branch said. "He's certainly been through that in Texas."
During his tenure as leader of the Texas system, Yudof also worked to cultivate a presence in Washington, D.C., in an effort to increase federal research dollars. Annual research expenditures since Yudof took office have increased by a third, to almost $460 million a year.
"He didn't just go to the Legislature and say 'give us more money.' He went to every source of revenue we could and tried to optimize it better," Miller said. The result was "better research dollars, better endowment earnings, better contributions and some increases in state funding … in every way, financially, we did extremely well."
Under Yudof's leadership, endowment funds have almost doubled, to more than $15.6 billion at the end of the last fiscal year, according to NACUBO, a college business officers' group that tracks endowments.
The eye-popping balance put the UT system at the top of the heap, ranked fifth under the likes of Harvard, Yale and Stanford.
"The reputation of the UT system nationally is the best that it has been in its history," Miller said. "We didn't have that kind of reputation six or eight years ago. We just didn't."
At $775,000 a year in total compensation, the position has been lucrative personally, too. He also lived in a home owned by the UT System in Austin's posh Tarrytown area.
Yudof's dealings with the state have not all been successful.
One of his biggest failures came in 2007, when the Legislature rejected an overhaul of the state's top ten percent law. The law, which grants automatic college admission to student's who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school class, has been criticized by Yudof and others who argue that it limits the ability to recruit a well-rounded student body.
The issue will likely be left to Yudof's successor as it becomes more problematic for UT Austin, which announced last week that it has reserved a record 81 percent of its fall admission offers this year to students guaranteed a spot under the law.
In another key disappointment, Yudof pushed tirelessly but failed to acquire the management of Los Alamos National Laboratory. His effort to raise the system's national scientific profile suffered a setback when federal officials in 2005 rejected its bid in favor of UC and engineering giant Bechtel Corp. Supporters said winning the contract could have resulted in more research opportunities for professors and students and bolstered the system's national reputation.
On the academic side, Yudof's initiatives in the UT system have included an accountability initiative that measures student and university performance, posting results online for anyone to see.
He increased the technology transfers to commercialize new inventions and products within the system and promoted a $2.56 billion partnership with private donors to boost competitiveness in science, technology, engineering and health.
If the UC regents approve his appointment, Yudof would lead a university system with 10 academic campuses, five medical centers and contracts to manage three national laboratories. It has an $18 billion annual budget, more than 220,000 students and 170,000 faculty and staff.
A former law professor, dean and provost at the University of Texas at Austin, Yudof has presided over the UT system since August 2002.
Yudof served as president of the University of Minnesota system for five years before he became chancellor of the UT system, which has nine campuses, six health institutions and a $11 billion annual budget.