|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
San Diego Union-Tribune/AP 3-17-04
University of California facing $1.6 billion shortfall
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- University of California students can look forward to paying more for less as the prestigious school struggles with a multimillion-dollar shortfall that is boosting fees and draining budgets.
UC officials estimate that during the past four years they've received $1.6 billion less from the state than expected. For the coming year, 2004-05, the nine-campus system would receive $2.67 billion under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget, compared to $2.9 billion last year.
The governor, seeking to close a $16 billion state budget shortfall next fiscal year without raising taxes, is proposing a 10 percent fee increase for undergraduates along with higher increases for graduate and out-of-state students. The hike would raise average undergraduate fees from about $5,500 a year to $6,000.
Another option that was supposed to be presented to the Board of Regents at a meeting Wednesday was raising fees more than 10 percent for undergraduates, to avoid taxing graduate students with the 40 percent hikes suggested by the governor.
The governor also proposes cutting freshman enrollment by 3,200, reducing the amount of financial aid available, raising the student-faculty ratio from just under 18:1 to just over 20:1 and eliminating $33 million set aside to recruit poor and disadvantaged students.
"This was the one-two punch - no, it was the one-two-three-four punch," said UC Berkeley student Alan Lightfeldt.
Turmoil in state finances means UC has yet to adopt its budget request, usually done in November. They have not yet voted on what to do with student fees, although that decision could come later this spring.
UC officials are trying to negotiate some budget relief, hoping to convince lawmakers that UC brainpower is the engine that will help drive a state recovery.
However, the enrollment cuts are all but inevitable since admissions decisions have mostly been made at this point.
The rejected students are being redirected to community colleges, with the promise of free tuition there and a guaranteed spot at UC in two years. A similar plan is proposed for the 23-campus California State University system, where 4,200 potential freshmen are to be referred to community college.
Meanwhile, community colleges have their own financial troubles, with fees rising from $11 to $18 an hour last year and set to go to $26 under the governor's budget. Thousands of students marched on Sacramento on Monday to protest the fee hikes.
UC officials hope to salvage some of the outreach programs, which were augmented substantially after the school stopped considering race in admissions in 1998. The programs serve many black and Hispanic students, underrepresented at UC, especially at the top campuses of Berkeley and UCLA, but in compliance with state law they do not target students by race.
Lightfeldt, who is studying economics at Berkeley, is among the poor white students who benefited from outreach, enrolling in the well-regarded Early Academic Opportunity Program when he was in seventh grade.
"Obviously I think it's terrible that something so beneficial as outreach is going to be cut," said Lightfeldt. "A lot of the people who are going to be affected, unfortunately, are people who are minorities or come from a poor economic background or from a single-parent household like myself. What the outreach program does for those people is give them a voice."
Even with the cuts and rising expense, Lightfeldt figures that motivated students with good support networks will get a college education.
It's the others he's worried about.
"This doesn't help anybody, especially in the underrepresented minority groups and those who are from low-income households," he said. "We're really just not even giving them a chance."
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