UCOP Details Emergency Budget Initiative

    The University of California Office of the President will begin meeting in Sacramento on Oct. 2 to flesh out the details of an emergency budget initiative, called “rebenching”, set to be implemented during the 2013-14 academic year. “Rebenching” is an initiative that requires the state to allocate every UC campus the same amount of funding per student.

    The University of California Academic Senate, a body of faculty members from all 10 UC campuses, passed the initiative in July.

    The UC system received roughly $2.4 billion in funding from the state of California for the 2011-12 year, 10.9 percent of the state budget. This is a nearly 60 percent decrease from the $3.8 billion the UC system received for the 1991-92 school year. As the state funding shrank throughout the 90’s, state funding was preferentially provided to the fastest-growing campuses.

    Because there was even less money available during the following decade, the allocation policy became even more complicated. The inequalities piled up over the years, causing certain campuses to receive much more state funding than others. UCLA, for instance, received $6,413 per student for the 2011-12 academic year, while UCSD received $5,499 per student for the same period. The two smallest UCs–Riverside and Merced — will be treated separately under the rebenching scheme. They will receive significantly less per-student funding from the state.

    Susan Gillman and James Chalfant, professors at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, respectively, served as co-chairs of the “Rebenching Task Force” within the Academic Senate. In a letter they sent to UC faculty members in July, Gillman and Chalfant wrote that “no one [could] explain the reasons for the funding disparities” between campuses.

    “Rebenching is the single largest reform tool the university has in its direct control,” they wrote in the letter.

    The rebenching measures were approved by the Academic Senate with the expectation that either Prop 30 or Prop 38 will pass in the Nov. 6 general election this year. Prop. 30 would set aside funding from higher sales taxes for students at public universities. Prop. 38 would provide funding for the same group using a steeper income tax rate.

    If both of these measures fail to pass, the academic senate will have to equalize state funding in other ways. Systemwide units, such as the UC observatories, laser centers, hospitals and clinics, would be the first to go.  

    “A second source of funding would be savings from reducing allocations to systemwide units. A third option would be reductions in allocations to the best-funded campuses,” Gilman and Chalfant wrote.

    UC President Mark G. Yudof stated that if measures like Prop 30 and Prop 38 do not pass this November, implementation of the rebenching scheme will be problematic, especially for well-funded campuses like UC Davis and UCLA. He emphasized the importance of increasing appropriations for the university post-rebenching.

    “We have a $22 billion-plus budget, and only $2 million will come from the state of California,” Yudof said.

    UCSD Scripps Professor and Divisional Representative to the Systemwide Assembly of the Academic Senate John Hildebrand stated in an email to The Guardian that a rebenching scheme would likely be “difficult to implement” without additional money. He served on the Rebenching Task Force this summer as well as during the 2011-12 academic year. “Inequities are built into the system,” he said.

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