Reality Check: Everybody Hurts in State’s Fiscal Picture

    Long ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised a new day of
    politics and new attitude of political spending. But it now seems that day is a
    ways off, with California
    now standing at the precipice of a gaping fiscal abyss that is $14 billion
    wide. And just as much as legislators are readjusting their game plans —
    cutting down programs, reducing expenditures and utilizing other
    belt-tightening procedures — collegiate student advocacy groups should expect
    to do the same.

    Calling your local legislator, the foremost
    “you-can-make-a-change!” approach used by such groups, will likely fall flat in
    these trying times.

    Why? Legislators will have a handful of quick and
    justifiably correct answers: We have to pay for state health care. We have to
    pay for criminal justice programs. We have to pay for K-12 schools — all while
    dodging the much-hated tax hike. Simply put, priorities are now more important
    than ever. State funding to our universities, a mostly financially autonomous
    10-campus system, will undoubtedly hover around the bare minimum.

    But to see the university shortchanged is still a tragedy.
    Long-term fights to see certain university programs revived and student
    services expanded will most certainly fall to the wayside, while state
    scholarships such as the Cal Grant can say goodbye to any growth and possibly
    even see a reduction. Together, the budget shrinkages make it that much more
    difficult for the underprivileged to attain a UC education. But with lawmakers
    in Sacramento yelling “code red,” there seems to be little flexibility to deal
    with priorities in higher education: lower fees, better programs, smaller class
    sizes and more outreach.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has passed the decision of where
    these cuts hit into the regents’ hands. It will be months before the dust
    settles, and we see which programs and services take the worst cuts.

    The upcoming Feb. 5 vote will prove vital to both the
    financial health of the state and university. Passage of the measure to give
    the state’s community colleges a fiscal boon, for example, will give the
    state’s legislators less to spend on the UC system. So with a smaller money pot
    than ever in California
    this year, student advocates should hold fast to the “give a little to get a
    little” understanding.

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