State Sen. Anthony Cannella, in his opinion piece characterizing the University of California’s proposed 2014 budget as based on “dubious claims,” seriously misstated the university’s fiscal reality and neglected key facts (“UC paints unrealistic picture of its budget”; Viewpoints, Dec. 8).
While Cannella agreed that state support for UC was slashed by some $900 million over five years, he misstates that tuition increases and systemwide savings have more than made up the difference.
In fact, increases in tuition – which will remain frozen for the third consecutive year in 2014 – have filled only a little more than a third of the shortfall in state funding through 2012-13. This shortfall was caused not only by base budget cuts, but also unfunded mandatory cost increases. These are bills that must be paid for collective bargaining agreements, health care, energy and pension liabilities. When combined with the cuts, our total budget gap was more than $2 billion. Moreover, of the tuition revenue cited by Cannella, more than a third was set aside for financial aid.
It is unfortunate that the senator failed to note that while other higher education segments responded to the fiscal crisis by reducing enrollment, UC continues to adhere to California’s Master Plan. Today, UC educates 7,600 California undergraduates, at a cost of $76 million, for whom it receives no state funding.
The 2014-15 UC budget request presents an opportunity for the state to reinvest in UC. During the recession, we lost faculty, cut courses, increased faculty workloads and reduced library hours and graduate student support. These measures impacted the quality of the student experience at a time when UC protected access and affordability – while still maintaining the highest graduation rates of any public university system in the nation.
The state has a golden opportunity to use a portion of its anticipated $5.6 billion budget surplus to reinvest in its university system. Funding above the 5 percent base budget increase would allow us to enroll more California freshmen and community college transfers, increase faculty hiring, aid graduate students, expand library hours and provide state-of-the-art technology and instructional equipment in the classroom. The regents’ budget envisions investing in our students and the future of our state.
Patrick J. Lenz is vice president of Budget and Capital Resources for the University of California.