UC Officials React to Proposed Budget

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With the state facing a $25.4 billion budget gap for the 2011-12 fiscal year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed $500 million in cuts to the University of California as part of his 2011-12 budget on Monday as UC administration members looked on in dismay.

The $500 million funding cut to the UC represents a 17 percent reduction from the state's estimated funding level last year of about $2.9 billion to the university, according to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel.

Brown's first recommendation for the state's 2011-12 budget proposes a total of $12.5 billion in reductions in state spending levels. His plan includes deep cuts to state welfare programs and a total of $1 billion in funding reductions to the state's higher education system.

UC President Mark Yudof decried the cut in a statement Monday after the news conference, saying it represented a "sad day for California."

"In the budget proposed by Gov. Brown, the collective tuition payments made by University of California students for the first time in history would exceed what the state contributes to the system's general fund," he wrote. "The crossing of this threshold transcends mere symbolism and should be profoundly disturbing to all Californians."

But Yudof acknowledged that the state's current situation has forced the governor to make such decisions and pledged that the university will "stand up and do all it can to help the state through what is a fiscal, structural and political crisis."

The proposed cut to UC funding - which Brown called "very difficult" at the news conference - continues a trend of diminishing state support for the university that has seen annual state funding levels drop by $733.3 million since the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to Brown's budget proposal.

"I think the president is rightly distressed over the message (this trend) sends," said Patrick Lenz, UC vice president for budget. "It actually is a reduction of $750 million, or a 22.5 percent reduction of state support, for the UC since 07-08."

In order to weather the $500 million dollar shortfall, President Yudof will be asking each of the 10 UC campus chancellors to meet individual budget reduction goals while the UC central administration will simultaneously investigate potential cost-saving measures across the system, such as enrollment levels, increased fees or furloughs, according to Lenz.

But this budget proposal is not final and further cuts to the UC could evolve over the coming months. In addition to the Legislature's response and subsequent alterations to the governor's plan, Lenz noted that the spending levels proposed are contingent on California voters approving a five-year continuation of current taxes - anything but guaranteed.

If the election - which will not occur until June - results in the denial of the tax continuation and necessitates further cuts in the budget, "the (result) would come to us so late it would limit the university's options to respond," Lenz said.

The California State University system - which has also experienced severe cuts in recent years - also will sustain a $500 million cut through Brown's plan. The plan also includes $432.5 million in cuts to the state's community college system while increasing the price per unit from $26 to $36.


Jordan Bach-Lombardo is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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