Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his budget proposal for the 2005-2006 fiscal year last week which includes an additional $97.5 million be added to the UC budget for the next school year in an attempt to offset a $372 million cut last year.
The funding will go toward student growth, faculty and staff compensation as well as the opening of UC Merced, the first research university built in the 21st century.
The additional funding will allow the UC to operate with a total budget of $2.806 billion, as opposed to last year’s $2.67 billion budget. In spite of a 19 percent increase in student enrollment, the university has seen a 15 percent cut in state funding.
‘The governor’s overall budget proposal for [the] UC is very welcome after years of cuts,’ said UC President Robert C. Dynes in a news release. ‘The governor has fulfilled his commitments under the compact, providing many of the basic resources we need to begin rebuilding our programs and to sustain our contributions to California’s economic competitiveness and quality of life.’
UCI’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez, praised the governor’s action, as UCI continues to grow in student enrollment.
‘Our goal is to increase student enrollment from 3,700 to 4,200 [incoming freshmen],’ Gomez said. ‘UCI wants to grow and the governor is allowing that through this budget proposal. UCI will also be able to continue its building projects expected in the near future.’
Another $305.2 million, approved by voters as a general bond measure in November 2002 will go toward upgrading and expanding academic facilities to support universitywide enrollment growth.
These funds will enable UCI to continue ongoing construction projects. According to Gomez, another 1,500 on-campus living spaces for students will be opening in 2006 adjacent to Vista Del Campo and Arroyo Vista.
Unfortunately, the university will not be receiving the expected one-time payment of $17 million that was outlined in the governor’s 2004-2005 budget proposal. This figure was not included in the budget compact that was reached last year between the UC and the governor.
Nonetheless, Dynes hopes to withdraw this money from the state in order to support increased enrollment or academic preparation. According to the governor’s news release, if the university’s efforts to restore the $17 million are not successful, there could be an impact on winter and spring admissions.
‘While we understand that the state’s fiscal condition is still serious, we intend to work with the governor and the legislature over the course of the budget process to demonstrate the importance of these programs and to seek restoration of this funding,’ Dynes said.
The programs most impacted by the $17 million cut will be K-12 academic preparation programs, formerly known as ‘outreach’ programs. Various outreach programs at UCI, such as Humanities Out There, Global Connect and Arts Bridge, will feel repercussions from the new budget.
‘If we are not preparing students from different backgrounds of low-income families and different areas, it will impact the competitiveness of our global economy,’ Gomez said. ‘I’m not pleased with the outreach cuts. There will be a high level of instability that [the outreach programs] have to live with.’
The budget proposal will also finance faculty and staff compensation. The UC expects to increase funding by 1.5 percent to all eligible employees and faculty. According to the governor, these increases are needed because UC faculty salaries are now estimated to be 8 to 10 percent behind those of comparable institutions.
Despite an increased budget, students will still feel the impact of the budget cuts from the last four years. UC still expects to increase tuition next year for fall quarter by 8 percent, or $457, for undergraduates and 10 percent, or $628, for graduate students.
‘An increase in faculty and staff salary have been long deserved, but not at the expense of student fees,’ said Jennifer Lilla, president of the UC Student Association. ‘The state is essentially taxing students for what was supposed to be a free education.’
Lilla said that the compact may seem like good news, but, in reality, it gives students another year of tuition increases and cuts to programs and financial aid.
‘Students have every right to demand a budget priority,’ Lilla said. ‘I understand that cuts have to happen across the board. Increasing student fees should always be the last option, but it always seems to be the first.’
In the meantime, students, faculty and staff can only cross their fingers until the final budget is released some time in June or July.
But before the governor’s budget is implemented, it will be reviewed by the state legislature. Over the spring, the legislature will hold hearings to make alternate proposals before approving the final budget.