UCSB’s Educational Opportunity Program is preparing for the worst in the face of the University of California’s budget woes.

Expected to take heavy hits from UCSB’s current $16 million budget deficit, EOP – which provides an array of free support programs to eligible students – will most likely stop employing students on their staff and cease funding many programs it has sponsored in the past to avoid laying-off career staff, EOP’s Director Pete Villarreal said.

EOP – in addition to offering mentorship opportunities, academic programs and counseling – has historically been a major sponsor of a variety of cultural programs on campus. EOP’s 7,139 undergraduate members constitute nearly 40 percent of the university’s undergraduate population.

The harsh reality of the budget cuts, Villarreal said, is that cultural events – such as Black History month, the Harvest Dinner, LGBTQ’s cultural week and Black Family Weekend – will no longer receive funding from EOP.

“By making these sacrifices that we don’t want to – but have to – we are doing everything we can to not lay-off our career staff,” Villarreal said.

Additionally, Villarreal said many students who work for EOP can expect to lose their jobs.

“There is going to be reduction on all levels – there is no way around that while the whole UC is suffering,” Villarreal said. “We’re looking at cultural services, peer advisor programming – any type of programming that provides outreach to students is going to be in trouble. Along with that, cutting a large part of this programming reduces student staffing.”

In the 90’s, employees took pay cuts – despite already having had their salaries frozen – to prevent the program cutting permanent staff, he said. While it should not come to that, Villarreal said, EOP is looking into any and all options available to take some financial pressure off of the program.

The prospect of slashing programs has left some students contemplating the budget crisis’ impact on their UCSB experience.

Ben Fleischhacker, a second-year computer engineering major, said he feels ceasing to fund cultural events is necessary considering the current financial climate.

“I don’t see it being a huge problem,” Fleischhacker said, “because the main job of the school is to teach, it’s a shame, but teaching is more important than culture events.”

However, Imadul Kabir, an undeclared second-year, said cutting cultural activities on campus will actually harm students’ educational experiences.

“I think it would hurt the school [to lose these programs],” Kabir said. “It’s important to have awareness of events like Black History Month.”

While his department is slated to thin out, Villarreal, a 31-year veteran of EOP, remains positive.

“We persist in some way or another,” Villarreal said. “We will find a way to keep a semblance of these programs available. We want the campus to be introduced to all these community groups, and ensure diversity.”