In response to the state of California’s $14.5 billion deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a 10 percent reduction in funding for almost every state service including the University of California.
The proposed funding cut would result in a net loss of approximately $109 million, or 3.4 percent from the 2007-08 budget and would fall $400 million short of the budget proposal formulated by the UC Regents last November.
According to the text of the budget, while the governor’s plan allows the University discretion in allocating the specific impact of the 10 percent funding cut, it also anticipates a negative impact on student enrollment, tuition and individual programs. Nevertheless, the budget encourages the University to keep cuts to instructional programs minimal.
According to Steve Boilard, the UC Legislative Analyst Office Higher Education Director, the University will receive no state funding to cover next year’s growth and class size increases, or decreases in research funding as well as other measures that were discussed as ways to save money.
In a teleconference, UC Student Association President Louise Hendrickson said fee increases are crippling students, who, as a consequence, are forced to bear the weight of the state’s deficit.
“When fees rise, qualified and hard-working students are blocked from attending the University of California,” Hendrickson said. “The UC system needs to reach out to [Schwarzenegger] and the legislature to let them know that the governor needs to find other alternatives for the budget rather than force students to make up for deficits.”
The governor’s proposal does not provide funding for a student fee “buyout” as in the 2006-07 school year, and assumes a student fee increase of at least 7 percent in educational fees for 2008-09, along with a 10 percent increase in the 2008-09 registration fee. The combined total amounts to a proposed fee increase of $490 for undergraduates and $546 for graduate students.
According to the Associated Press, Schwarzenegger said the state cuts were necessary in order to curb future debts and balance the state budget.
“This is a budget that doesn’t please everybody, I know that for sure,” Schwarzenegger said. “The bottom line is I think this is the fairest way to go.”
UC Spokesman Ricardo Vázquez said the budget cuts would have been more severe if not for the Higher Education Compact, signed by the governor in 2004. The compact, which lasts through 2011, sets a schedule for increasing student fees in moderate amounts to coincide with state budget projections.
Dina Cervantes, Chair of the California State Student Association, an organization which represents students at state universities, said middle class students are most affected when fees are increased.
“If you are lower income you can get financial aid, but what is happening is that students are squeezed in the middle and are getting hurt,” Cervantes said.
The Regents are scheduled to discuss the proposed budget cuts at the UC Regents meeting at UC Los Angeles next week.