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Opening of UC Merced is Delayed by Budget Crisis

Times Staff Writer

The opening of the University of California’s campus in the Central Valley will be delayed one year because of the state budget crisis, officials said Wednesday.

UC Merced, the system’s 10th campus, had been scheduled to open to undergraduates in fall 2004. But under the compromise budget reached this week, the opening will be delayed to 2005. Legislators, who called for the delay, also cut $4 million in project funding but allocated $17.3 million in operational and start-up funds.

Construction of the campus, which has begun on a rural site near Merced, will proceed, however. Officials said that more than $200 million for the construction is in lease revenue bonds and is unaffected by the budget crisis.

The 2004 opening had appeared increasingly doubtful in recent weeks, as the state and the university have struggled to cope with a budget crisis that has forced UC to raise student fees, curb enrollment growth and make deep cuts.

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UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said she was disappointed by the delay but relieved that enough money was kept in the budget to allow the project to progress.

“We are still moving forward to create the academic programs and student services needed to serve students in fall 2005,” she said.

She and other officials said the original target date for the campus’ opening had been 2005. But Gov. Gray Davis, in a gesture to Democratic constituents in the Central Valley, pushed the date up a year in 1999, they said.

Tomlinson-Keasey said she and other administrators, who are working out of office space at a nearby air base, will continue to recruit the campus’ founding faculty.

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About 60 full-time faculty members will be needed to serve 1,000 students now expected in the fall of 2005, she said.

Community leaders in Merced said delay should not pose a major problem.

“As long as it opens in 2005, it’s not a major crisis for the community,” said Don Bergman, chief executive officer of the Merced Chamber of Commerce.


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