At a time when California faces one of its bleakest economic outlooks, you may wonder why we are presenting state legislators with a 2009-10 budget that asks for a 23 percent funding boost.
Some have called it "pie in the sky." I call it a dose of reality.
And the reality is that while the cost of educating UC students has not gone up dramatically, the state's inflation-adjusted support for those students has declined dramatically – 40 percent since 1990.
We can no longer afford to give the impression that UC can do more and more with less and less public support.
The budget we are putting forth represents the true cost of running the University of California, and maintaining it as an economic engine and a beacon of excellence.
That budget proposal, which Regents approved on Nov. 20, asks the state to provide $694 million more than the roughly $3 billion in funding we received this year.
|Read video transcript
These are the dollars we need to maintain the high quality of education and research that many of you have dedicated your life's work to building and sustaining.
What are the consequences if we don't get it? The Regents have made it clear that curtailed freshman enrollments in fall 2009 and increased student fees are among the things we would need to explore.
And clearly the consequences of continued underfunding would extend well beyond that. Our campuses are already seeing cuts to a range of programs and services, as several chancellors told the Regents last month.
The final 2008-09 state budget contained no money for enrollment growth. We now have about 10,000 more students than the state has given us money to educate. Our budget request asks for funds for both last year's 2.5 percent unfunded student growth and 2.5 percent growth in 2009-10.
We are asking our lawmakers to provide funding equal to a 9.4 percent student fee increase – roughly $110 million – so we can avoid raising fees.
The proposed budget also asks for money to fund badly needed staff and faculty raises, increased health benefit costs and funding to continue closing the faculty salary gap.
We're not asking for a blank check. Like most California households, we have tightened our belt and are making daily progress in cutting costs, reducing redundant administrative tasks and downsizing the structure of our central administration at the Office of the President.
We have launched a major accountability initiative giving any policy-maker, any student, any parent, any California taxpayer the ability to see for themselves how we measure up to the high standards we have set for this institution. And we will continue to improve in both achieving cost efficiencies and demonstrating the return on the public’s investment in UC.
We don't come to the table empty-handed. The University of California and its partners in public higher education are a major driver of economic activity in this state. Every California industry, from agriculture to technology to medicine, relies on UC innovations and partnerships to stay competitive in the global economy. We create jobs, and we are training the work force of the future. An investment in human capital is one of the best economic stimulants California could provide to lift us out of this recession.
I don’t deny that our situation is serious. But the gravity of the challenges should galvanize all of us into action.
What's next? In the coming weeks, I will be deploying my best skills to present our case to the governor and state lawmakers. I will be joining my counterparts in the California State University and California Community Colleges systems to alert the public to the drastic cuts public education is facing. And we will be working hard to tell the story of UC's contributions to the quality of life and economic development of California.
I need your support in these efforts. Who better to tell the UC story than our own faculty and staff? You are the ones who see both our struggles and our triumphs up close. You are the ones our students and their families rely on to fulfill their dreams of attaining a quality education. You are the ones who built this university.
In the coming weeks, you can make a difference. Talk to your families, your neighbors, the members of your congregations and community groups and your legislators. Remind them of the important mission UC has before it and the role we can play to get California back on its feet.
Together we can fight for the support our university needs and deserves.
I would like to thank all of you for your commitment to the university and to wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season.
Mark G. Yudof