Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger further revised the University of California’s budget, proposing another cutback of $322 million on Wednesday, May 20. This cut, in conjunction with other proposed budget cuts, will cause the budget to be pushed back an astounding $531 million.
In a statement released that same day, UC President Mark Yudof described this cut as the “anti stimulus package,” referring to President Obama’s bailout plan and the funds from it that are anticipated to be distributed.
In order to get out of a financial crisis as difficult as this one, Yudof states that the greatest investment the government can make is in its human capital.
“In tough times, great research universities are not luxury items; they are engines for recovery,” he wrote. “The innovations developed at institutions like UC lead to new products, new industries and new jobs.”
Ricardo Vazquez, ethnic communications services manager of the UC Office of the President, agrees with this sentiment, adding that the university’s role in aiding the financial worries of the country is key.
“The University of California and research institutions like it lead to new discoveries, innovation, industry, and most importantly, jobs,” Vazquez said. “Reduced investment in higher education will hamper the university’s ability to help with the economic well-being of the state.”
The stimulus package, approved nearly three months ago, allows universities to apply for new grants; UC Irvine has received $1.5 million in grant money so far, in addition to a $135,000 stipend recently awarded to expand teaching and research in global public health.
According to Mark Warner, associate vice chancellor for administration in the Office of Research, UCI has submitted 221 proposals for new grants under the stimulus program, equating to a monetary award of about $130 million.
“We have been hearing that the federal agencies are in the process of increasing the amount of money that they are allocating, so I’m sure we are all hoping that we’ll get our share of that. I think the stimulus will definitely impact our research program over time,” Vazquez said.
Yet this award does not replace the gaping hole that is the $16 billion deficit in which California finds itself. UCI in particular, said Vazquez, is being hit especially hard by the lack of funds.
“If these cuts are, in fact, implemented, everyone in the university family will be affected: students, staff, faculty, everyone. The regents will really have to look at this in terms of what can be done and what we will face,” Vazquez said.
The possibilities could be potentially grim: reduction of enrollment for the coming years, increased class size, furloughs, or laying off professors and raising student fees, which has already been implemented. Student fees for the 2009-10 year have already increased by 9.3 percent by regent vote on May 7. UCI became the first UC to enact a voluntary furlough program, though it is still an optional (but encouraged) method to reduce the financial burden on UCI.
Still, the process is not at its end, and the feelings shared among the legislature, regents, and other university faculty are ones of slight confusion and ambiguity for the future. This is merely the proposal, stated Vazquez, and thus it is only a preliminary stage.
Constituents of the UC system, he adds, will continue meeting with the governor, proposing new ideas to keep the budget a shade more realistic. Vazquez remains hopeful, however, claiming that the most important thing for the university to do is to continue making the case to the governor that higher education is not only necessary for students, but to the state itself.
“The negotiations will continue,” Vazquez said. “At this point, we just are learning about this budget. We have many more meetings to attend, but I don’t know what action we’ll be taking for sure, and I don’t think anybody really does.”