Brown's Budget Stirs Debate

UC System Troubled by Funding Gap That Gov. Brown's Proposed Cuts To Education Will Cause

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Costly Cuts to the UC Budget

Emma Anderson talks with Jordan Bach-Lombardo about Jerry Brown's proposed budget plan and how the 500 million dollar cut affects the UC system.

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With California facing a $25.4 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed on Jan. 10 a budget that slashes state spending by $12.5 billion, including a $500 million cut to the UC system.

The $500 million cut constitutes a 16.4 percent reduction from last year's state general fund support for the UC and an approximately 5 percent reduction of the university's overall operating budget, according to UC President Mark Yudof's Jan. 10 open letter to California, in which he opposed the cut, citing potential harm to one of California's most important public institutions.

"Early and enduring support for the University of California has been critical to the state's success," Yudof wrote. "This won't be easy, and all possible remedies must be considered ... With the governor's budget, as proposed, we will be digging deep into bone."

If the governor's budget is approved without changes, the state will contribute $7,210 per student, and the student and his or her family will pay $7,930 - the first time in history that the state's contribution has been less than the student's, according to Yudof's letter.

To weather the proposed cut, Yudof will present each UC campus with specific budget reduction goals for chancellors to meet while the central UC office will identify ways to reduce costs systemwide.

In its assessment of the governor's budget proposal, the California Legislative Analyst's Office - a nonpartisan fiscal policy adviser for the state - wrote that the language of the proposal leaves it unclear as to how the UC is going to cope with the reduction in funding.

"Although the administration intends that the segments' General Fund reductions be achieved primarily through cost reductions and increased efficiency, the proposed budget package includes no language that would ensure such an outcome," the report reads. "In the past, the segments have responded to unallocated cuts in a variety of ways, including midyear tuition increases, enrollment reductions, and furloughs, as well as some efforts at increased efficiencies."

UC Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz identified several of these sources of revenue as potential methods of navigating the funding gap, including increases in student fees.

But Yudof stated in his letter that his preference "is to not seek an additional fee increase," although he also said he cannot commit to this until he and the UC Board of Regents assess the proposed budget's impact.

The proposed cut is another chapter in a two-decade trend of declining state support for the UC, representing a 22.5 percent reduction since the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to Lenz, and a 57 percent cut over the last 20 years, according to Yudof's letter.

UC Student Association President Claudia Magana opposed the cuts in a Jan. 10 statement, saying that the decreasing support - and fee increases it could lead to - "fundamentally jeopardizes" the quality, affordability and accessibility of the UC system.

The budget plan also proposes a $500 million cut from the California State University system, as well as $432.5 million in cuts to the state's community college system while increasing the price per unit from $26 to $36.

The budget could undergo many changes between now and when it will be voted on in the summer, including any modifications made by the state Legislature. It is also contingent upon state voters approving a five-year continuation of current taxes in a June special election, a prospect that the Legislative Analyst's Office stated "obviously carries some risk" and that worries Lenz.

"If voters don't support his tax continuation ... this recommendation would come to us so late it would limit the university's options to respond," Lenz said.


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

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