UCSD Braces for Budget Delays

Students preparing for the beginning of yet another school year may have a new reason to start the stressing early: The full 32-percent fee increase instituted by the UC Board of Regents last fall has finally taken place. Tuition at each UC campus increased by $1,929 beginning this fall quarter  — from $8,373 to $10,302 — so  instead of last year’s fees of $25,515 per quarter, students will now be paying $27,85.

The fee increase was instituted last November by a near-unanimous vote when the Board of Regents chose to increase tuition fees to cover a decrease in state funding caused by revenue decline, population growth, court litigations and ineffective budget solutions.

While public agencies and institutions in California await the final state budget — currently breaking the record for going 85 days without approval due to conflicts over how to close the $19-billion deficit — UCSD is changing the way it allocates money. Currently, 11 percent of UCSD’s funds comes from the state.

“Our own budget process and most of the other campuses have been held up waiting for the state. It doesn’t mean that there’s no funds,” UCSD Campus Budget Office Assistant Budget Director Blair Stephenson said. “We’ve made plans to accommodate what we think the budget’s going to be but there is no state budget so we’re being very cautious about how we spend our funds right now.”

Of UCSD’s total funds, 89 percent come from existing resources carried over from the previous year in addition to sources, such as hospital revenue, federal grants, fundraising efforts and student fees.

“The student fee increases generate revenue for the campus and it’s unfortunate that we’ve had these fee increases in the last couple of years,” Stephenson said. “But the fee increases have helped to mitigate some of the state budget reductions.”

Stephenson said the lack of progress in approving the state budget has reduced the UC system’s budget and caused the state to not pay for the cost increases the UC system is experiencing, such as inflationary costs, health benefit costs and contributions made to the retirement system.

“Last year, the state reductions to the campus were very, very severe. We’re not expecting further state reductions. However the state is not funding a lot of mandatory cost increases to the campus,” Stephenson said.

The campus has been responding to the state fiscal crisis by restructuring organizations, consolidating services and cutting back cost.

For example, last year UCSD instituted hiring freezes, furloughs, eliminated positions, consolidation of the vice chancellor positions for External Affairs, Business Affairs and restructuring of information technology services.

“The biggest savings you’re going to see on a campus like this [and also] the biggest cost we gave, is people,” Stephenson said. “And the only way to cut back on salaries and expenses is to cut back on people. We try to minimize the impact by going through a hiring freeze.”

The budget office is looking into additional ways to bring in revenue through federal stimulus money and grant money. It is also planning to increase the number of out-of-state students to bring in more fee revenue to subsequently increase the number of faculty members.

“[Enrolling] non-resident students is not at the expense of decreasing other student enrollment,” Stephenson said. “It’s just additive, so it doesn’t impact our resident student population.”

The basic expenses for non-California residents total about $50,737 per year, which brings in $22,879 more than California residents for the university.

Stephenson said UCSD remains hopeful for increased funding, especially in light of a state budget proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that focuses on higher education, which promises to restore $305 million cut last year and add $51.3 million in financial aid toward eligible students who are not currently being funded.

“What our future outlook looks like is a little bit unknown right now,” Stephenson said. “We are hopeful that legislature will pass the budget soon. We are hopeful everything that was in the governor’s budget will be supported by the legislature.”

On the campuswide level, UC spokesperson Peter King said in an e-mail about how the UC system is adjusting to the budget impasse.

“We are working hard on our end to make sure we eliminate any possible waste and to make sure we are as creative as possible in a relentless effort to make every dollar count,” he said.

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