By Elena Chang
For the first time in the UC system’s 143-year history, revenue from student fees will exceed the state’s contribution to the university operating budget. On Jan. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown put forward a budget proposal that cuts $1.4 billion from California’s higher education system — $500 million of which will be taken from the UC system.
The rest of the $1.4 billion will be deducted from the CSU system and community colleges. Although the UC system has experienced major cuts before, the proposed $500 million cut would eliminate about one-sixth of current state funding.
UC Student Association President Claudia Magana said the UCSA board is working with budget analysts to get an understanding of the budget issue before deciding what do to next.
“We first have to figure out what we can do,” Magana said. “We hope to talk about what action plan to take at the Student Lobby Conference that will happen at the end of February in Sacramento.”
The budget is a move to confront California’s estimated $25.4 billion deficit. Brown suggested at Monday’s press conference that it was time for the state to pay its debts, in spite of the inevitable difficulties ahead.
Brown suggested a five-year extension of higher taxes — a plan that requires voter approval — to mitigate the damage created by the state deficit. Brown plans to maintain current funding levels for K-12 schools. The rest of the $12.5-billion in cuts will also reduce funding in welfare and social services.
“The president quite clearly has said, on more than one occasion, that his preference is not to have to raise fees,” UCOP spokesperson Peter King said. “Unquestionably, there will be sacrifices and pain.”
Although legislators invested an extra $370 million in the UC system last year, the Regents still hit students with an 8-percent fee increase in November, in addition to the 32 percent hike in fees last year.
“The responsible approach is to take the governor at his word and assume the cuts are coming and work hard to decide the right way to execute them,” King said. “We are still going to be in Sacramento making the case that we are tremendously important to the future of this state.”
Vice President of External Affairs Michael Lam is skeptical about what the UC system will do for its students.
“So far, [UC President Mark G. Yudof] has been all statement, statement, statement — no action,” Lam said. “If he hasn’t done anything for us in the past, I don’t think he will do anything for us now.”
UCSA’s response statement critically noted that this historic shift in overall contribution to the UC system essentially goes against the vision of an affordable college education outlined in the California Master Plan.
“It’s unfair because there has never before been such a dependency on student fees,” Lam said.
Whether or not these cuts will be an effective long-term solution still remains highly contentious, as students face the looming probability of another fee increase within the next year.
“I know we are in debt, but these are too drastic of cuts for one year. Even if they cut that down by half, it would still be too much. We voted him in for governor because we thought he understood that we could barely pay for school,” Lam said.
Lam senses that UCSD will feel the impact immediately.
“Once Fall Quarter  hits, when a new generation of students enter UCSD, the changes will already be taking place … increased tuition maybe, but we can’t say for sure,” Lam said.
As the UC system strives to maintain its position as the nation’s best-ranked public higher education system, the proposed budget will not make the journey any more affordable in the near future for its most important recipients, the students.
“These [budget plans] are good for California, but education should not be cut because education is what we all seek to achieve,” Lam said. “It’s like an entity of California. Right now is not the time for drastic cuts.”
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