University of California officials could borrow dialogue heard in dozens of old movies when they essentially tell state officials: “Give us the money or the kids get it!” Of course, the UC administration and the Regents panel that endorsed their plan yesterday were not holding a gun to the students but made the threat in the form of a tuition hike of up to 25-percent over five years if the state doesn’t increase spending on the UC system.

Before the Regents approve the hike they should first look at the university system’s costs and also look for ways to save money.

Governor Jerry Brown was right in calling for a commission to consider ways to reduce expenses as well as plan how to deliver a 21st Century education in technologically advanced California. Brown insisted the UC system should not follow the lead of high-cost private universities in their salary and tuition decisions.

In a similar spirit, a column I posted a couple of weeks ago suggested that the Regents audit the system before considering any tuition hikes. A chief driver in the request for tuition increases is retirement costs and employee pay increases according to the university’s financial officer.

The UC Student Association also demanded disclosure of expenditures from the university. Criticism has been levied at the university system for the wages and benefits executives receive while students suffer. As state Senator Ted Gaines put it, “The UC administrators should also be ashamed of themselves. They are compensated like tech company CEOs with exorbitant salaries and lavish pensions. It’s unconscionable that students are being asked to dig deeper while the expansion of the UC ruling class continues without pause.”

Full disclosure of the costs of running the school from salaries to expenses will tell where the students’ money is actually going. The Regents need to deal with the cause of the revenue crisis that the UC administration claims.

One former Regent thinks he knows the reason for the tuition crisis – Proposition 13.

In a letter to the editor to the San Francisco Chronicle, former legislator and UC Regent, William Bagley writes that because the state backfilled money to local governments the money for higher education was reduced.

Of course, there is much more money in the state budget than there was over three decades ago. Today’s General Fund budget is six times the size of the 1980 budget and has more than doubled the rate of inflation growth since that time. Bagley’s charge doesn’t recognize the many new state programs created since that time lay claim to state funds.

Gather facts, set up reforms and create a plan to use technology to deliver education and reduce costs as Gov. Brown advocates. Only then should tuition increases be discussed – although if reforms are earnestly implemented tuition increases would probably not be needed.