A Funding Fantasy

Last Tuesday, University of California President Mark G. Yudof announced a bold plan: No more tuition hikes — at least for the coming year. Instead of the purported 16-percent tuition increase for the 2012-13 academic year, he plans to ask the state for a $400 million budget increase, a solution that, if implemented, would fill the UC system’s budget deficit. Hold your applause though. This brash statement will soon be clarified in a postponed UC Regents meeting that was supposed to happen this week, a meeting that would clarify the logic gaps of this rather improbable plan.

Whether this plan will work or not, this $400 million increase proposal has good intentions. Yudof hopes to use $36.6 million of the $400 million to increase student enrollment by 1 percent, or 2,100 students. This increase in students would allow the UC system to fulfill its master plan’s goal of admitting all eligible students, thought it would cause a great deal more competition for classes. In addition, $310 million more would be used to smooth over the damages — smaller class sizes, professor and staff layoffs — caused by budget cuts in years past.

But the state of California can hardly afford to fund Yudof’s whimsy. It is, after all, facing a $5-to-8 billion dollar deficit. UC funding from the state has dropped $650 million this year already, and if the mid-year budget doesn’t line up (and let’s face it — it won’t), the UC system will see its funding further cut by $100 million dollars this coming winter. The sobering reality of these numbers puts the feasibility of Yudof’s proposal in practice — few in Sacramento will respond warmly to this request.

This year, the UC system received $2.4 billion after budget cuts, in comparison to $3.25 billion in 2007-8. And now, Yudof is asking for $2.8 billion for 2012-13. According to Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz in the San Francisco Chronicle article, “UC expected to ask state for $412 million boost,” and the state hasn’t given the UC system its requested funds since the early 2000s. Given this previous track record, Yudof’s plan is looking less and less inspiring.

Most notably, the 2011-12 budget cuts have rocked the system this past year. This marks the first year that student tuition paid more into UC income than support from the state of California — in-state tuition was raised 18.3-percent this year, a $1,900 increase. Tuition aside, state budget cuts have shortened library hours (or shut libraries down altogether), cut class offerings and led to innumerable faculty departures. Yudof hopes to at least reverse some of these problems with his state budget proposal.

It’s a worthy cause, to be sure, but UC officials have readily acknowledged that this proposal is more of a “wish list” than a demand. After all, these demands happen nearly every year around this time — the UC system calculates the amount it needs to continue running and tells lawmakers. And every year, like clockwork, the state refuses to up the budget and UC officials are forced to consider, again, the possibility of tuition raises.

But Yudof isn’t without a backup plan. If the funds from the state do not materialize come March, he will revisit the idea of raising student tuition. In a controversial announcement in September, tuition would increase between 8 to 16 percent every year until 2016. At the end of this tuition hike, students would end up paying more than $22,000 just for basic in-state tuition. The fallout from this announcement was immense. Several days later, the Regents distanced themselves from the plan, saying they wanted nothing to do with it. They hoped that the $1 billion gap would be bridged elsewhere — apparently, this is their solution.

But if this is the best bridging plan the UC Regents can come up with, then students might as well brace themselves for an onslaught of tuition hikes come March.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$0
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$0
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal