Although the university has coped with a smaller budget and preserved essential services through staff cuts, hiring freezes, reductions in operating hours and departmental consolidations, these cutbacks may no longer be enough.
Last year, the university faced a $52 million budget cut — over $13 million of which was to be dispersed throughout the various university departments. Until now, individual departments making small changes to their administrative structure have absorbed the majority share of cuts.
However, while flexibility from staff within university departments has helped to preserve student services, the next set of budget cuts are going to be devastating, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young said.
“We’ve run out of options, we’ve run out of resources,” Young said. “We can no longer cut along the margins.”
Solid Efforts, Dwindling Options
The university has coped and, in some cases, even flourished under the tight financial conditions of the past decade. The administration has managed to avoid drastic service elimination — whether academic or otherwise — for the past year. Within the last ten years the campus reported the addition of 12 new academic programs, nearly four times more than had been eliminated.
The ultimate goal within Student Affairs — which was forced to reduce $7 million over the last seven years — has been to sustain student services.
“We spent a lot of effort to automate as many things as we could to save money and to save resources,” Young said. “We’ve had to shave off services on the margins: We’ve cut hours, we’ve cut staff, and we’ve combined people who are doing work.”
Todd Lee, assistant chancellor in the office of Budget and Planning, said the general sentiment of working to preserve student programs and resources has remained consistent throughout the campus.
“Everyone takes a different set of actions,” Lee said. “In administrative services there may be a position in accounting that wasn’t filled, that may help with meeting their budget target. Others may have done some restructuring within their organization to save some money.”
More Work, Less Staff
The financial aid office staff was reduced from 33 members to 17 over the last eight years. According to Mike Miller, acting director of the UCSB Financial Aid Office, the office received over 16,000 aid applications this quarter, swamping the staff.
“We’ve had to close our doors more often and focus on processing applications to get through the mass of applications we’ve had,” Miller said.
Eric Zimmerman, Academic and Internship coordinator in the environmental studies department, said a loss in funding for teaching assistants prompted reductions in overall class sizes for some of the largest lower division classes.
Additionally, Zimmerman said faculty members are struggling to accommodate growing majors like environmental studies.
“The other big change over the last two years is the increase in the number of declared majors in ES, from around 500 in 2008 to close to 800 this year,” Zimmerman said. “This has forced … faculty to increase the class enrollment of their course from 10 percent to as high as 40 percent.”
Deborah McCleister, undergraduate program advisor for the Classics Dept., said a popular departmental coping mechanism has been to consolidate.
“The big one was clustering of staff,” McCleister said. “I used to be the adviser for religious studies students and now am advising religious studies, East Asian studies and classics.”
McCleister said a basic hiring freeze has also been implemented at the university. Hiring new employees is virtually off limits and many retirees are not likely to be replaced.
Trimming incrementally can only go so far, Young said. Now, the uneasy question of what to axe looms nearer for UCSB’s academic departments.
“What are we to do? What do you cut anymore? Do you cut your financial aid and registrar support? Do you cut your counseling and community under stress support, like students of color or lesbian, gay or bisexual students? Do you cut your childcare?” Young said. “That’s what we’re facing. Where do we go from here?”