Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the California 2008-2009 state budget Tuesday – an action that meant mixed news for the University of California, which faces numerous budget challenges in the upcoming year.
While the finalized budget included the $100 million in UC funding that was on the chopping block earlier this year, state funding for UC remains essentially flat. The budget does not provide for increased costs due to inflation or growing enrollment. As a result, the UC system will still face a net shortfall of $100 million in state funding, according to a press release from the UC newsroom.
UC Davis will face a $28.2 million shortfall in funding – a number that could have been much higher, said Kelly Ratliff, assistant vice chancellor for budget resource management.
“It was a very real fear among UC that the new budget would not include the $100 million,” she said. “If that had happened, UC Davis would have had up to $40 million in budget cuts. It is difficult to wait for the state [to finalize the budget] so [UC Davis] began making plans for potential budget cuts early on in the year. Forty million dollars was a real possibility.“
To make up for the $28.2 million shortfall, executive vice chancellor Barbara Horowitz called for a 7 percent budget reduction in all administrative support and academic units.
“Every unit was assigned a budget reduction target of 7 percent,” Ratliff said. “However, this reduction excluded faculty and teacher’s assistant salaries. In addition, only a 3 percent reduction was applied to Shields Library so the reduction in academic units only ends up being about 2.5 percent overall.“
The reduction to administrative support and academic units will account for $16.8 million, leaving an $11.4 million deficit. The university will combat the remaining shortfall with funding from a variety of sources, including $6.8 million from student fees, Ratliff said.
Despite the large cut in funding, UC Davis students should not experience a significant change in their experience on campus, said Chris Carter, principal budget analyst for the office of resource management and planning.
“While many programs will experience budget reductions, I am not aware of any large programs that will be cut completely,” he said. “With a few exceptions, the budget cuts will be spread equally across different units and programs campuswide.“
However, students may not see an end to academic fee increases.
“It is an option that is on the table,” Ratliff said. “A normal budget process includes all sources of funding, and student fees are one of those sources.“
The UC Board of Regents already approved a 7.4 percent increase in students for the 2008-2009 school year in May.
“The student fee decisions are ultimately up to the regents,” Carter said. “But historically when state funding has been flat or reduced, it has caused more pressure to increase student fees on an annual basis.“
While the budget cuts will be applied equally to the 10 UC campuses, Carter said that some campuses will suffer more than others.
“Obviously, the different campuses are in different situations,” he said. “Campuses that are currently experiencing a lot of growth will feel the reductions more than those that are not.“
While UC upheld its promise to accept the top 12.5 percent of California high school students for the 2008-2009 year, it may not be able to continue to do so if the budget situation does not change, Ratliff said.
“The decision has already been made for this year to uphold admission for those students,” she said. “However, going forward, it will be very difficult to provide that [guarantee] to those students if the state does not provide adequate funding.“
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