Due to California’s budget deficit, billion-dollar cuts have been made to many state programs including the University of California system. Here at UCI, deans from across various academic departments have decided to share financial burdens equally, each taking on a 6 to 8 percent budget cut. Each of the deans is now focused on working around these budget cuts in order to help ease the impact upon the quality of education that UCI students receive.
UCI administrators expect an anticipated $15 million to be cut from UCI’s operating budget for the 2004 to 2005 school year, including a minimum permanent cut of 6 to 7 percent from state funds. This total nearly levels the aggregate of general cuts made to UCI over the previous two years combined. Students feel that these types of cuts are unfair.
‘I feel like it’s completely unfair that the education system is going to be the first thing to be affected in the budget cuts,’ said first-year biological sciences major Jacqueline Morales. ‘[Education] should be a priority and protected at all costs.’
According to Meredith Lee, dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education, students shouldn’t experience the effects directly. The majority of cuts are being absorbed in alternative areas in order to protect student interests.
The deans from UCI’s various academic departments are determined to preserve the core functions of the university and to uphold the levels of educational integrity throughout the budget crisis.
‘It’s the deans’ philosophy, and the administrative cabinet’s that the students who come to the University of California during bad budget times or good budget times, should see no difference in their educational experience,’ said Candice Garretson, assistant dean for the School of Biological Sciences. ‘So our goal is to absolutely try to minimize those impacts on the students to the best of our ability.’
In spite of recent budget cuts, most schools at UCI are still making additions to their current number of faculty. However, while popular breadth classes and upper-division core classes will remain intact, students might witness a decrease in the number of electives offered.
Regarding the 7 percent cut to the base budget in the Division of Undergraduate Education, Lee commented, ‘We’re needing to maximize enrollment in the existing courses and won’t be able to run as many courses as there are marginally enrolled. Students might not be able to get courses at the times they prefer, but that’s often the case anyway.’
The School of Physical Sciences has suffered cuts totaling slightly over $1 million this year. Despite efforts to preserve the educational process as much as possible, Ronald Stern, dean of the School of Physical Sciences, admits that students ‘are going to see larger classes. We still have a very diverse course offering, but the number of different courses that are offered are not what they were before.’
This reduction of class diversity may also be attributed to the university’s current inability to afford more temporary lecturers. Often, schools provisionally hire a variety of lecturers to teach specialty courses. However, with the recent budget crunch, departments are unable to hire as many lecturers.
The School of Physical Sciences and School of Biological Sciences have also had to deal with consequences made by the state’s priority to cut faculty research funds.
‘The quality of research support that we’re able to provide our faculty has dwindled,’ Stern said. ‘So it’s slowed down the discoveries that we normally make here in the School of Physical Sciences.’
Approximately 80 percent of the various schools’ budget is spent towards salaries and hiring staff. Because of the cuts, many departments have delayed recruitment of vacant positions and have consequently created a larger workload for existing personnel to perform. Salaries have been frozen and in some departments, many employees have been laid off.
Despite the deans’ attempts to preserve the quality of education at UCI, many are still concerned about the long-term effects the budget cuts will have on the university’s statewide and national ranking.
Jim Pavelko, assistant dean in the Graduate School of Management, worries how the dramatic rise in tuition fees will affect the school’s ability to attract quality students to come to UCI instead of going to other institutions.
‘What’s happening is that we could be pricing ourselves off the market. We used to be very inexpensive. When you compared us to [the University of Southern California], for example, we were kind of the low-price leader. Now, we’re almost the same price as USC and the other schools,’ Pavelko said.
The status of the UC funding is scheduled to improve starting in 2005. The governor has made a multi-year pact with the UC system to prevent further cuts and has agreed to increase financial support for the university starting July 2005.
‘I’m looking forward to acting on that pact,’ Stern remarked. ‘I’m looking forward to going back to the growth we’ve experienced over the last decade, and it looks like we’re going to be able to continue the growth over the beginning of next year, over to the next decade.’