Dear Commons Community,
The California public higher education system is facing massive reductions in funding if proposed tax increases are not enacted. Entire programs and maybe schools may be closed according to an article in the New York Times.
“For generations, the University of California system — home to such globally renowned institutions as Berkeley and U.C.L.A. — has been widely recognized as perhaps the best example of what public universities could be. Along with the California State University system and the state’s vast number of community colleges, higher education options here have long been the envy of other states.
But after years, and even decades, of budget cutbacks from the state, that reputation is under increasing threat. University leaders, who had responded typically to earlier budget cuts with assurances that their institutions were still in top form, now are sounding the alarm. In trying to rally support, they openly worry that their schools do not offer the same quality of education as a decade ago.
“I’d be lying if I said what we offer students hasn’t been changed and that there hasn’t been a degradation of the learning environment,” said Timothy White, the chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, which has had record growth in recent years. Last year, plans to open a medical school on the campus were shelved after state budget cuts…
While no one is arguing that cutting higher education spending is a good thing, some say that the state budget crisis makes it necessary — and may provide an opportunity for needed changes.
Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which strongly opposes the proposed tax increase, said the colleges should do more to show they are cutting spending, like reducing pay for top administrators or closing programs that do not directly benefit the state.
“We’ve had the luxury in prior years of heavily subsidizing colleges,” Mr. Coupal said. “But like anything in California, the delivery of higher education is not performance based. They’ve created new campuses and programs based on politics and not need.”
Chancellor White and others say the concerns about the budget cuts are beyond academic. For generations, the universities have been economic engines for the state, graduating hundreds of thousands of students each year. At every level, the universities are receiving more applicants than ever. But without more state money, colleges are struggling to find room for eligible students.
Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president of business operations for the University of California, said the system was now in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In the last year, the state has cut $750 million from the system’s budget. This year, for the first time, the system receives more money from tuition than from state aid — but that only makes up for roughly a quarter of the cuts from the state. Over all, the budget is the same as it was in 2007, when there were 75,000 fewer students enrolled.”
It is a shame that California which truly was the leader in public higher education in this country has now placed its colleges and universities in such a dire situation. Many other states have already been down the road that California is going by essentially transferring much of the costs of public higher education from state funding to student tuition. We wish them luck as they weather this crisis.