SAN FRANCISCO -- In recent months, as the University of California has demanded more money from the state to avoid tuition hikes, Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano -- a former governor herself -- have been characterized as opponents in a fierce battle of wills.

But as uncertainty over the university's budget looms, the two leaders have agreed to form a two-person committee to comb through the university's finances -- together.

The committee was Brown's suggestion, and many of the ideas it will consider to reduce costs are among his favorites: expanding online education, for example, and creating a faster track for some students to earn degrees.

The new Select Advisory Committee on the Cost Structure of the University, initially approved Wednesday, will also consider access to the university and ideas gaining traction nationwide such as accepting credit for work experience and military training.

It's unclear how, exactly, the committee's findings will play into the ongoing budget standoff between the governor -- who also serves as an ex-officio regent and board president -- and the university.

In November, the regents voted to hike students' systemwide tuition and fees, now $12,192, by as much as 5 percent a year through 2019-20, a 28 percent increase. Earlier this month, Brown released a budget proposal that would penalize the university by eliminating its $120 million increase if it raises student fees.

The committee will be jointly staffed by the governor's people and the UC president's team and is expected to update the regents in March.

Regent Sherry Lansing said she was optimistic about the proposition. "I believe they are going to come to a conclusion that is going to be very beneficial for all of us," she said.

In brief remarks, Brown described the select committee as a preliminary inquiry. "Whatever thoughts we get, or facts, we'll come before the board and talk about it," he said. "The board is the ultimate authority."

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