2009 will mark Mark Yudof’s first full year as president of the University of California system. There will be no shortage of challenges, as UC grapples with severe budget cuts while trying to increase accessibility and maintain affordability.
In a video posted on the UC president’s web site, Yudof acknowledged that 2009 “will be a traumatic year.” Still, he urged Californians to consider the impact UC has on the state, from cutting-edge medical research to solving global warming.
“We’re not a for-profit enterprise, we’re an enterprise which is very closely associated with the future trajectory of the state of California,” Yudof said. “You have a great interest in how robust we are at the University of California, and … you should think twice before putting us on the chopping block.”
The credit crunch and accompanying sour economy have hit California hard, which has struggled to meet even its current obligations. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators have yet to come to an agreement for a budget over the next 18 months to close a $14 billion deficit. The stalemate has prompted State Controller John Chiang to announce that he would have to start paying some bills in IOUs next month.
In response, the governor has proposed slashing spending across the board and raising the sales tax. Higher education would not be spared and UC would face severe budget cuts. However, the UC regents warn they may have to curtail freshman enrollment without adequate funding.
Currently, UC enrolls 11,000 more students than for which it receives funding, amounting to a pitfall of $120 million. Furthermore, per-student state spending, adjusted for inflation, has fallen nearly 40 percent since 1990.
“In the context of the current state fiscal crisis, the governor’s budget proposal does not provide the funding increase the regents sought for 2009-10 in order to fund enrollment growth, cover increasing energy costs and other inflationary costs, and prevent a student fee increase at the University of California,” said Yudof in a prepared statement. “This absence of funding will create substantial challenges for the university, coming on top of the historic underfunding that has affected all segments of public higher education in California.”
The lack of state funding has prompted the regents to consider more aggressive cost-cutting measures, including curtailing freshman enrollment. The regents will discuss the issue on Jan. 14.
When asked what the biggest challenge facing UC will be this year, UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said it will be minimizing the effects of the budget cuts. UC’s greatest challenge is not dealing with the current and inevitable future budget cuts, but rather “dealing with our budget cuts in ways that do not require us to totally hunker down,” Vanderhoef said in an e-mail interview.
Vanderhoef said UC Davis must avoid layoffs as much as possible and thus past agreements regarding salary increases may have to be put on hold so that everyone can keep a job.
“Each one of us, especially those of us who have guaranteed jobs and salaries, must be ready to accept a little hurt so that we can avoid, as best we are able, anyone in our family having to endure the maximum hurt,” Vanderhoef said.
Though student fees have risen 16 percent since 2006, the governor assumed a systemwide minimum 9.3 percent student fee increase in his budget. Professional fees would increase from 5 to 24 percent.
The regents considered integrating fee increases into their proposed UC budget in November, but ultimately decided to wait and see what the governor would propose.
Student Regent D’Artagnan Scorza acknowledged that while he hoped student fees would not have to go up at all, they would probably have to be increased by some amount. As with curtailing freshman enrollment, student fee increases will be among several cost-saving options the regents will discuss, he said.
Other options might include increasing the student-faculty ratio and taking more international and out-of-state students, who pay nonresident fees, Scorza said.
“Everything’s on the table as much as there are options out there,” he said.
This year, the regents will consider eliminating the SAT II subject tests as an admissions requirement to UC.
Critics of the SAT II tests say that they prevent otherwise high-achieving students from being UC-eligible. They say some students cannot afford the subject tests or do not have sufficient counseling to know that their scores must be sent to UC, which is the only public university in the country to require the tests.
Scorza, who strongly supports the requirement change, said the elimination of the SAT II would allow admission for underrepresented students by income, demographics and ethnicity while still maintaining high admissions standards.
“All of our current indicators are that the SAT II doesn’t add much value to a student’s application,” he said. “We’re increasing quality with a better pool to select from.”
Under the proposed admissions policy, UC applicants would have to complete 15 required college-preparatory (“a-g”) courses, with 11 done by the end of the 11th grade, maintain a 3.0 or better weighted grade point average in those courses and take the ACT with Writing or SAT Reasoning Test.
Students who fall in the top 9 percent of all high school graduates statewide and those who rank in the top 9 percent of their own high school graduating class would be guaranteed admission to a UC school.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.