Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newly proposed state budget calls for $1.78 billion in decreased funding for higher education and the elimination of all Cal Grants by 2011.
Cuts will be directed toward the University of California and the California State University, which would both lose $335 million over the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, according to a press release from the UC Student Association. The proposal would also begin phasing out the Cal Grant program by canceling grants for 118,000 college freshmen starting school next fall.
In an e-mail, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the cuts would be detrimental to the UC system.
“First, concerning suggestions that the very important Cal Grant program be eliminated… anything that would so negatively affect the ability of large numbers of students and prospective students to attend UCSB and other UC campuses would be extremely unfortunate and should be resisted,” Yang said. “With the failure of the ballot measures and the additional budget cuts recently announced by the state, our campus is confronting an unprecedented budget challenge.”
In addition to system-wide cuts, funding for the UC Hastings College of Law would also be reduced to the legal minimum of $10.3 million over the next two years.
The proposed cuts are part of a broader effort to limit the size of California’s budget, which already has a $24 billion spending gap. State lawmakers had hoped to avoid cuts by raising taxes and redirecting spending with several failed propositions in the May 19 Special Election. Before the election, Governor Schwarzenegger had warned cuts could be in store if the propositions did not pass.
The proposed budget has already drawn strong criticism from politicians, school administrators and students.
In response to the governor’s proposal, senior UC administrators and chancellors from all 10 UC campuses will meet in Oakland on June 3 to discuss the budget. According to Yang, UC President Mark G. Yudof has already made some decisions on how to cope with the budgetary situation.
“President Yudof announced that the senior UC leaders, including [Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas] and me on our Santa Barbara campus, have agreed to voluntarily take a 5 percent salary cut, effective for the 2009-10 fiscal year,” Yang wrote. “Other actions are likely to follow soon.”
In a UC Office of the President press release, Yudof emphasized that the proposed budget would call for drastic moves by the university.
“Such a severe budget reduction, following years of chronic underfunding, would force the university to weigh a number of stark choices,” Yudof said. “Salary reductions, employee furloughs, decreases in enrollment, increases in class sizes, cuts to programs and student services and, unfortunately, even higher fees. At this point, all options must be placed on the table for consideration at some point in the future.”
Meanwhile, students are trying to put a tourniquet on the hemorrhaging budget. The UC Students’ Association, a nonprofit group that advocates accessible education, plans to send representatives to a joint conference committee today to voice opposition to the proposed cuts.
UCSA Organizing Director Jennifer Knox said it is crucial for students to speak out against the governor’s proposal.
“It is important that students act on this now,” Knox said. “We have been working with legislators on this to resist the proposal.”
According to UCSA President Lucero Chavez, the proposed cuts will be especially harmful to students given the poor state of the economy.
“It is unbelievable that the governor is suggesting these massive cuts at all, but it is especially astonishing during our state and nation’s current economic crisis,” said Chavez in a press release. “Higher education is critical to providing immediate job training to get unemployed workers the skills to do available jobs and essential for long-term economic recovery.”