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Testifying before the state’s Joint Legislative Conference Committee on Budget, UC President Mark Yudof today (June 1) described the devastating consequences of the proposed state budget cuts for the university, its students and the services it provides to the state.
Yudof said the reduction in the state’s General Fund commitment, which totals almost $800 million for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years, would place in jeopardy its historic commitment to provide access to all eligible high school graduates and would force UC to rely more heavily on higher student fees.
“We recognize the need to be part of the solution to solve the state’s fiscal crisis,” Yudof said in remarks prepared in advance of his testimony. “But cuts of the magnitude proposed in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal will require us to consider extremely painful options. These include the possibility of further reducing first-time freshman admissions for 2010-11, revisiting the fee increase levels for 2009-10 and implementing furloughs, more layoffs and salary reductions for our employees.”
Yudof said the proposal to eliminate the Cal Grant program would be particularly devastating to low- and middle-income students attending UC. Eliminating new awards in 2009-10 and failing to cover the 2009-10 fee increase for renewal awards would result in a loss of about $110 million in aid for UC undergraduates next year alone.
Given the severity of this proposal, and the reliance students already have placed on promises of student aid in accepting admission from UC, Yudof told the committee he believes this action requires more notice to students and their families and urged committee members to reject it for 2009-10.
Yudof stressed that both the campuses and the central office already have taken a series of actions to deal with the shortfall in state funding. The Office of the President has downsized by $67 million, or nearly 19 percent, and has reduced the number of employees by 628, or 30 percent of its work force. Meanwhile, the campuses have achieved a range of budget cuts, including reducing or freezing hiring, curtailing faculty recruitment, and, in some cases, laying off staff.
In addition, Yudof called the proposed elimination of $31.3 million in funding for UC’s academic preparation programs shortsighted. If a reduction of this magnitude is required, he said, it should be made as an unallocated cut rather than targeted at valuable programs that help educationally disadvantaged students across the state prepare for college.
Addressing the issue of student access, he warned that without funding for enrollment growth, and given the magnitude of the proposed cuts, UC would be unable to hire the faculty and offer the sections to meet the overwhelming demand for access by qualified applicants. He said the university and the Regents would have to consider further reductions in freshman enrollments for the entering class of 2010-11 to bring them more closely into alignment with UC’s resources.
Finally, the nearly $800 million reduction in state funding for UC for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years would require the university to revisit the fee increases approved for the 2009-10 academic year, Yudof said.
“The long-term solution for our economy is to heighten investment in UC, the CSU and the Community Colleges,” Yudof said. “In the near term, unfortunately, the utter severity of the cuts proposed leaves us only difficult options to consider.
“But the Regents and I will have to act in order to ensure that UC can continue to offer the high-caliber education, research and patient care that Californians expect of us. Mediocrity is not an option.”