Proposed UC budget cuts are sound

    A few weeks ago, some rightly argued that electing Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California governor’s mansion was a good thing for University of California students. Commentators argued that a fiscally responsible governor is precisely what we need to ensure that out-of-control spending is curtailed, so as to not precipitate future student fee hikes.

    Since then, Schwarzenegger has proposed a UC budget cut of $18.4 million for the current school year. And although UC has announced no plans to increase student fees following the news, we can expect next year’s students to be unpleasantly surprised if this cut is adopted by the state legislature.

    But the fact that Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed to cut funds from the UC system should not change anyone’s mind. For the most part, he’s trimming extraneous fat from the budget, choosing to snip over 65 percent of the $18.4 million from UC outreach programs. And with the atrocious state budget ‹ a deficit of over $25 billion ‹ cuts such as these are necessary to recoup money lost under former Gov. Gray Davis’ watch.

    In competition with the idea of budget cuts, an increase in taxes is not the answer. Why should voters pay for the mistakes of the past administration from their own pockets? But neither should students. Impertinent UC programs should be cut in times like these, especially those that have nothing to do with the education of current UC attendees.

    The program taking the brunt of the funding cut is the University of California Early Academic Outreach Program. Its goal is to help “”California’s educationally disadvantaged students turn dreams into reality,”” EAOP states on its Web site.

    In practice, it means that disadvantaged high school students, defined by the University of California, receive preferential treatment by having the fortune of being targeted by EAOP. The program smacks of derogation ‹ it tells certain students that their admission into UC can only be made possible through extra help from the school system itself.

    Only here, EAOP argues, will students “”get the help they need to prepare for admission to the University of California.”” But what of other UC applicants? Well, according to the University of California, they can handle it on their own. How’s that for a confidence builder?

    But EAOP argues that the educational program helps more than “”85,000 California students achieve their full academic potential and realize their dreams of a college education.””

    What they left out is that this help comes at the expense of other UC applicants not receiving special treatment. After all, there are only a limited number of UC admissions openings.

    Critics of the proposed budget cuts, however, see it in a different light.

    While former UCSD chancellor and newly installed University of California President Robert C. Dynes concedes that the university has its “”role in the state’s solution to its budget gap,a he voiced his concern about the proposed funding cuts in a Nov. 25 press release.

    “”I am particularly concerned by the proposal to eliminate state funding for UC outreach programs to the public schools in California,”” Dynes stated. “”Improving student achievement throughout the public schools remains a major challenge facing our state, and UC outreach programs are making an important contribution to the effort.””

    Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh (D – South Gate) also joined Dynes in scaring the educationally minded, accusing the cuts of undermining public education.

    “”UC took devastating cuts in the current budget,”” Firebaugh said. “”To pile on additional cuts to those already made is to truly undermine our system of public education.””

    With a yearly budget of over $650 million, according to the UC Budget for Capital Improvements, the $18.4 million in cuts this year makes up less than .03 percent. That hardly translates to the undermining of our public school system as Firebaugh and Dynes see it.

    Politics aside, arguments to be made against trimming the fat from the UC budget are fragile at best. Programs that have nothing to do with the education of UC students have no place usurping UC funds, giving an advantage to students preferred by the University of California and showing the bias of university admissions.

    Schwarzenegger is right to cut funding for programs such as these, especially under the current circumstances. And if the university decides to raise student fees once again next year, Schwarzenegger will not be to blame ‹ a majority of the cuts deal with external programs, and amount to an insignificant percent of the yearly UC budget.

    Simply put, current UC students should not be made to pay for the outreach programs of preferred UC applicants. Should the university decide to continue these programs, it must look for money elsewhere, and would do well not to ask for it from the students they purport to serve.

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