For the last several days, I have been in Oakland and Sacramento trying to work out a deal to limit the state budget cuts to the UC system. I testified at the Assembly hearing and met with the Legislative Analyst for Higher Ed and Governor Brown’s point person for the universities. So I will begin with what I know for sure: I know nothing for sure. There is a flurry of activity, and no one knows what Brown is going to end up doing. He is asking for a lot of feedback from a lot of people, but each conversation is framed with the idea that things are going to be bad, and they might get even worse.
While the governor’s initial budget proposal calls for unallocated cuts of $500 million to the UC system, many legislators believe they should make targeted cuts. To help the legislature in this process, I have worked with AFSCME to propose a deal where the state would only reduce the UC by $250 million in exchange for the UC cutting the salaries and perks of the highest compensated administrators. We have also supported the position that there should be no additional fee hikes or enrollment cuts. In fact, I believe I have convinced several key people that the worst thing the UC could do is to cut undergraduate admissions. I have shown that last year, the UC brought in $23,000 per undergraduate in fees and state funds, but only spent $8,000 in direct instructional costs. It would thus be financial suicide to reduce undergrad enrollments since undergraduates subsidize research, graduate education, student services, and administration.
Yes it would be great if we were in a position to advocate for no cuts right now, but there are going to be reductions, and so we should try to make sure that they do not hurt the core mission of the university.
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