UC Irvine Dissects the Budget

Marlin Agoub/New University

UC Irvine students and faculty members learned about university financial issues and discussed the impact of recent budget reductions on school services during last Wednesday’s “Winter Student Forum Series” at the UCI Student Center.

The event began with an introduction from ASUCI President Vikram Nayudu and AGS President Payel Chowdhury,  explaining that the purpose of the forum was for the administration to explain the specifics of the UC budget challenge and for students to provide feedback and insight on how to ameliorate these issues.

Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget, Meredith Michaels, then started off the presentation by describing exactly how the funds allocated to the university are distributed, and how the budget is not as simple as it may seem.

“We are impacted by what happens at the global, federal and state levels,” Michaels said when describing how several factors determine the budget of the university.

Michaels noted that the European market, the nation’s current recession, the federal fiscal deficit and the state structural deficit have all played a role in the diminishing amount of funds the university has been able to receive.

Michaels continued by saying that even though UC Irvine was given a $2 billion budget for the 2011-12 school year, not all funds are equal for each department.

Dr. Thomas Parham, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, joined the presentation to explain the source of funding for each service under Student Affairs and how different departments are affected by the budget.

Dr. Parham began by saying that there are four main components of Student Affairs: Enrollment Services, Dean of Students, Auxiliary Services, and Wellness, Health and Counseling Services.

Auxiliary Services are intended to be self-supporting, independent enterprises that do not receive any funding from the state. Services that fall under this category at UCI include the Bookstore, Child Care Services, Student Center and Event Services, Student Government, Student Housing, and Hospitality and Dining Services.

The next department, Dean of Students, houses Clubs and Organizations, the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center, New Student Programs, and other offerings of this nature. These services are funded by what is called the “Core UC Support,” which comprises of UC funds, student fees and state funds.

Enrollment services (which include Admissions and Financial Aid) and Wellness, Health and Counseling Services (including organizations such as Campus Recreation and the Career Center) are also funded by the “Core” segment of the budget.

However, there are other funding sources in the budget such as “Contracts and Grants,” “Referendums” and “Other.”

“Contracts and Grants” fund educational outreach programs and other forms of academic preparation. “Referendums” support areas such as Student Government and certain aspects of Campus Recreation.

Altogether, 79 percent of the funds in the UCI budget come from “Sales and Services” (Auxiliary services such as the Bookstore); 3 percent comes from “Contracts and Grants” and “Other”; 9 percent originates from “Core UC support”; and the remaining 9% comes the “Referendums.”

Because there are so many different sources of funding for the budget, certain departments are allowed to use money while others can’t.

For example, some students asked administration before the event why the Global Viewpoint Lounge was added to the Student Center this year, while programs such as LARC disappeared.

Dr. Parham explained that the funds to build the lounge came from a “different pot of money” than the one used to fund LARC. He said that this addition was supported by a student fee referendum and was reinvested back into the facility.

Dr. Parham made it clear that UCI did not sacrifice offering LARC programs in order to build the Global Viewpoint Lounge. Aside from explaining the source of funding, he also mentioned why UCI thought it was important to build this lounge.

“Everyone ought to be represented in the fabric of their own institution,” Dr. Parham said in reference to the diversity of cultures displayed in the lounge.

After discussing the different sources of funding, Dr. Parham then explained that during the 2011-12 school year, there has been an 18 percent reduction to “Core” funds, resulting in a loss of $4.3 million.

During the 2009-10 school year, UCI faced a similar loss of money. In order to solve this problem then, the administration cut back on the funds toward Enrollment Services, Dean of Students, Auxiliary Services, and Wellness, Health and Counseling Services by 13 percent each.

However, the administration can’t use this previous solution again.

“We can’t just evenly cut back like we did before,” said Brice Kikuchi, Budget Officer of Student Affairs.

“A model like this assumes that every category is of equal importance,” said Dr. Parham, adding to Kikuchi’s previous statement.

The administration decided to ask students what they considered to be the most important services. This way, officials would be able to keep what matters the most since not all services can remain.

In order to find out what was at the top of people’s priorities, the administration then asked students and faculty members after the presentation to form small “break-out” groups to discuss these issues.

Each group was asked to answer these two questions: “Which services best contribute to your intellectual growth and development?” and “What student services could you go without?”

About five tables with eight to 10 members each discussed these questions for about half an hour. Dr. Parham, Meredith Michaels and Brice Kikuchi all walked around to the different groups to listen to conversations and interject when needed.

At the end of the “breakout” group session, representatives from each table spoke in front of the entire group to discuss what services they could and could not live without.

Although the answers varied, most people said that Enrollment Services such as Financial Aid were the most important to them.

As for services they could live without, some said that Campus Recreation (among others) could be downgraded or consolidated with other services in order to efficiently maximize the budget.

Members of the administration listened to student feedback and suggestions and said they would consider the priorities of students when figuring out how to handle the massive budget issues in the next few weeks.

Specific decisions were not made during the forum. It was simply an opportunity for students to speak up about what mattered most to them.

“Everyone here is on your side,” said Dr. Parham when wrapping up the three-hour forum. He stressed that he and the rest of administration are doing the best they can to advocate and provide for students.

ASUCI will host the next event in this “Winter Student Forum Series” on Monday, Jan. 23 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Crystal Cove Auditorium. The next forum will be entitled “Constructive Engagement: Protest Amid National Frustration.”