While students are being asked to accept a 32 percent increase in fees, they are also being told that they have to tolerate a lowering of educational quality. Currently, classes are getting bigger, courses are being eliminated, teachers are being laid off, and on some campuses, tutoring services have been cancelled. There has also been a reduction in library hours and the threat of library closures. Without a concerted effort to resist these changes, this situation will surely get worse.
While it is true that the state has reduced its funding to the UC system, we must keep in mind that last year, the university saw record revenues. If we take into account the federal stimulus money, state funding for the UC system actually went up last year (2008-09). In 2009, the UC brought in over $20 billion; state funding now represents less than 15 percent of the total UC budget. If revenue has gone up, and the state reductions for this year total less than 4 percent of the UC budget, why are some programs being reduced 25-50 percent? The answer to this question is key to understanding the UC system and how we can fight to protect quality education.
The main reason why so many courses are being eliminated and so many classes are getting bigger is that the university has decided to save money by laying off its most vulnerable teachers. Currently, over 50 percent of the undergraduate student credit hours are taught by lecturers and graduate students, and since these teachers are not eligible for tenure, they are the first to be eliminated when there is a budget reduction. Moreover, when these faculty members leave, they bring their courses with them, and the result is that students cannot get the classes they need to graduate on time, and the classes they do get are often so big that it is impossible to receive any type of personal attention or help.
Unless students, faculty, parents, and workers unite together to fight the downsizing of undergraduate education, the quality and reputation of this university will be destroyed. Although some may say that the university simply does not have the money to hire back the laid-off teachers or maintain library hours, it is clear that the UC always finds money to hire more administrators and to give them huge bonuses and perks. Likewise, the university is continuing to build new non-educational facilities as it guts its educational programs.
It is clear that the UC does not have a budget crisis; rather, it has a crisis in priorities, and all of us need to fight to change these priorities. Reduce the administration, limit construction, and stop laying off teachers and eliminating courses.