Ongoing Budget Cuts Pose Fewer Options for Student Affairs

Facing $14 million in budget cuts, UC Irvine officials have opted to make disproportionate financial reductions in order to ensure the quality of its academic programs.
Since budget cuts are not being made across the board, some parts of the campus will feel the sting more than others. One such area is the UCI Department of Student Affairs.
According to Richard Lynch, associate vice chancellor of the Budgeting Office at UCI, cuts were divided into three categories and directed at the bases of these categories as adjusted by inflation. The three areas were degree-granting units, which were reduced by 3.7 percent, non-degree-granting academic support units, which were reduced by 4.7 percent and non-academic support units, which were reduced by 5.7 percent.
Because Student Affairs does not grant degrees directly or offer academic support in the same vein as the Division of Undergraduate Education, the Office of Research or libraries, it fell in the third category.
“Obviously the entire university is affected by the budget cuts,” said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez. “We’re affected more because we are in agreement with protecting the instructional programs.”
According to Gomez there has been $914,000 worth of cuts to Student Affairs thus far. This is a considerably larger reduction than when the last significant reductions were made to Student Affairs in 2005, which totaled $619,000.
While finances are becoming scarcer at UCI, Gomez noted one successful approach that UCI officials have taken in order to save costs.
“As people retired and left, we did not replace them, but combined positions when possible,” Gomez said.
Gomez went on to list several cases where UCI has consolidated responsibilities in order to reduce the number of positions available. The director of the Student Center and the director of Scheduling and Conferencing has been combined into one position. The vacant roles of associate dean of students and assistant vice chancellor of student housing have been eliminated completely. Two positions were cut in the Career Center as was the empty associate dean of the Cross-Cultural Center spot.
Yet according to Gomez, other parts of the campus will not face financial reductions and funding is actually increasing for some programs. One instance of this is UCI’s mental health services programs, which will continue to receive monetary support, unimpeded. This is in accordance with a decision made by the UC regents prior to the budget cuts in order to preserve mental health services across the UC system.
Similarly, according to Lynch other programs at UCI will be given priority in allocating funds.
“Some areas were protected entirely. An example of that would be graduate student work because that’s a priority to the campus. Another example would be some of our very new [programs] or programs we’re launching in the school of nursing, the law school [and the] public health school,” Lynch said.
Still, other parts of the campus are being affected in unprecedented ways. Two of the more notable cases that Lynch referenced were the Cal Grant costs that were unable to be covered by the state and the halting of construction on two buildings at UCI. While the UC Office of the President has stepped in to cover Cal Grants until the end of the spring quarter, construction remains suspended on the arts building and the Telemedicine/Medical Education Building.
In terms of UCI’s student population, Lynch also mentioned that in the 2008-09 academic year, UCI took in roughly 1,200 more students than in the 2007-08 academic year. Lynch estimates that about $12 million would be needed to properly accommodate these students at UCI. To date, the state has not provided any of this funding, with the only support toward the $12 million goal being an increase in student fees, incapable of fully making up the difference.
Brice Kikuchi, a UCI Student Affairs budget officer, compared the cuts currently being felt to the last significant period of budget cuts from 2002 to 2005. Although the reductions were far from insignificant, the severity of these cuts may account for such unprecedented actions coming to pass.
“It seems to be cyclical … [though] the cuts for this first initial round seem to be bigger than what it was like for 2002. In 2002, we hit basically three budget years that we were in decline and then it started going back up again. [The] 2008-09 budget year is the first year in this decline and it was a lot deeper than it was in 2002-03,” Kikuchi said.
Lynch had a similar frame of mind. Although he stated that this is far from the first time UCI’s finances have faced problems, there are certain factors surrounding these reductions that are a further cause for concern.
“So far, from our perspective, these cuts are much more dramatic, not so much in size, but the state situation seems to be … more dire with fewer options for solutions. Furthermore, just the economic conditions of the world suggest that this might be a more prolonged period of economic difficulties than we had in the 1980s, 1990s or even the early 2000s,” Lynch said.
While Lynch admitted that he can find no silver lining to the situation, he is confident that UCI administrators will do everything in their power to reach the best outcome possible.
“We’re doing everything we can to continue to maintain the quality of the instruction, the research and the support of our faculty, staff and students through this period. There is an enormous amount of conversation and good work going on in that regard to protect those objectives,” Lynch said.