UC regents hear grim predictions about the system’s future

Reporting from San Francisco -- The University of California regents Wednesday heard grim predictions on how proposed state budget cuts would affect students and faculty even as officials sought to soften the blow by slashing spending at the UC headquarters and shifting the savings to the system’s 10 campuses.

“The painful truth is that we are at the point of compromising educational quality,” UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal told the Board of Regents.

He was among several campus leaders who gave the board forecasts about reduced class offerings and staff layoffs that are likely next year. Among other areas, some key required courses may be offered only once a year, making it harder for students to graduate on time, Blumenthal said.

At the meeting in San Francisco, UC President Mark Yudof announced that the system’s Oakland headquarters and other centralized UC offices will cut their budgets $50 million, or about 17%, and use the money to ease reductions on campuses next year.


But even that, officials said, would make up only a small part of the $500 million that Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested cutting from UC’s budget. That amount could double if his plan to extend several temporary taxes fails.

Without those tax measures, UC will face pressure to increase tuition beyond the 8% already scheduled this fall, as well as to trim enrollment and lay off employees, Yudof said. Although tenured professors would be protected, “almost everything else would be up for grabs,” he said.

The UC leader also said he wanted to give the campuses additional flexibility to cut spending and raise revenues.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau said he would like campuses to be able to set student tuition within a range, a matter that is now uniform and established centrally.

But the idea of UC campuses charging different tuition rates is controversial and, at a news conference they both attended, Santa Cruz’s Blumenthal said he and others oppose it, saying it damages the concept of a university system.

The regents heard presentations on policy alternatives over the next five years, depending on levels of state aid to the university, but took no action Wednesday. In one nightmarish possibility, administrators said student fees could double in five years, but quickly emphasized that scenario was just a talking point.

Regent Richard Blum said he did not want to cut enrollment and said UC should take a serious look at the high tuition and high-aid policy several states already have for their public universities. “I think it is the only way out of this mess,” he said.

On the other hand, Regent Eddie Island said the board should not act precipitously; he said he expects the state economy to recover in the next few years.

“We must not take actions that will essentially destroy the very thing we are trying to save,” Island said.