December 8, 2003
Higher education leaders say public must know
impact of added cuts
By Marina Dundjerski
UCLA Today staff writer
Californias three public higher education institutions must work
together to navigate through the fiscal challenges they face while preserving
quality, affordability and access, their leaders said at a budget forum
sponsored by the University of California and held at UCLA December
|UC President Robert Dynes, left,
with UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale at a town hall forum with
students, faculty and staff Photo: UC
Office of the President
One of the main topics tackled by the education leaders was how to
finance public higher learning at a time of fiscal crisis.
UC President Robert C. Dynes, California State University Chancellor
Charles B. Reed and California Community Colleges Chancellor Thomas
J. Nussbaum all agreed that the public needs to be convinced that further
cuts to higher education will be detrimental to individuals and the
economic future of the state.
[Californians] still do expect the best of higher education in
the country and do believe somehow that theyre paying for it,
Dynes said. But they have lost track of what it costs.
Reed added, You have lots of advocates in the state, and they
want a life that is better for their children than they had.
scare the hell out of them if they find out that their son or daughter
is not going to get into the CSU or UC or the community colleges. And
we havent done a very good job of talking about the consequences
Steven A. Olsen, UCLAs vice chancellor of finance, said that
due to mandates on state spending--such as Proposition 98, which guarantees
a certain level of money to K-12 and the community college system--Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and the legislature cannot depend on economic
recovery to solve the operating deficit.
Such mandatory budget items comprise 63 percent of Californias
General Fund spending in 2004-05, Olsen said. On the other hand, the
discretionary budget --which includes UC, CSU, prisons,
health and social services--makes up 37 percent of General Fund spending.
And UCs and CSUs combined funding of $5.3 billion is 16
percent of the discretionary budget, Olsen added. Already
the state Department of Finance has asked all state entities, including
the UC and CSU, to make plans for possible cuts of up to 20 percent
State education leaders are beginning to ask themselves a soul-searching
question: Is Californias higher education system becoming state-assisted
rather than state-supported? Under such a system, Olsen explained, the
universities would generally be responsible for their own financial
support while the state would purchase a certain level of access for
residents, thus creating a market rate differential between tuition
for residents and non-residents.
Bruce Hamlett, chief consultant for the California State Assembly Committee
on Higher Education, said members have recently discussed such topics
as improving time-to-degree, making transfers more efficiently, looking
at student-fee differentials and improving per-student costs.
But Reed countered, One thing I havent heard today is this:
What is the states responsibility in funding higher education?
Is it $10,000 per student? Is it $5,000 per student? $15,000?
That question doesnt get asked in Sacramento. And No. 2: What
is the states responsibility about access?
Said Nussbaum: The bottom line is when times get really tough,
the state gets amnesia on its commitment to access and cuts the levels
[of support] per student. Currently at the community colleges,
he said, there are 175,000 fewer students than projected by the Department
of Finance for 2002. Its not because of fees, Nussbaum
said. Our colleges cut thousands and thousands of course sessions
because of budget cuts.
Dynes said that despite the fiscal troubles, it is important to keep
a positive outlook. Even now, we are the envy of the world because
somehow we have figured out how to attract the most creative, innovative
people in the world
and that has to be retained throughout these
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