University Budget Cuts Spark Protests

Katrina Kovalik

In the face of massive state budget cuts, the University of California school system will attempt to make up for a possible loss of $813 million by accepting more out-of-state students in addition to further hiking the tuition for California students.

UC already raised undergraduate tuition for in-staters to $8,373 in January 2010. This will be followed by a more devastating hike of about $2,000 next fall, amounting in a yearly tuition of over $10,300. None of these figures include the annual costs of campus living, which can be an additional $17,000 to $19,000, according to the 2009-2010 finance guides for the different campuses.

“I hate that they raised the tuition,” said senior Alie Laher who applied to UC schools. “It’s going to be really hard, especially because my parents will be paying [tuitions] for three kids starting next year for the next eight years.”

The University of California hopes to replace the losses mandated by the Governor’s new budget by increasing enrollment of out-of-state students who have to pay the premium tuition of around $30,000.

UC Berkeley plans to reduce the number of California students in next year’s freshman class by 15% and nearly double its acceptance of out-of-state students. This concession will limit the number of spots for native Californians, but could generate millions of dollars from non-resident tuitions, which would be close to those for private schools. About half of each out-of-state tuition will cover UC costs and the other half is profit for the system.

Still, according to Richard C. Blum, Regent and Chairman Emeritus of the University, “The University of California’s fundamental commitment is to educating college students from California.”

There are 10 campuses that make up the highly regarded University of California system: Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, San Diego, Irvine, Merced, San Francisco, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Year after year, the University system has received top marks. However, vast cuts from the state’s economic crisis are disrupting everything from dormitory repairs to retention of top instructors.

“The Governor wants to restore this year $345 million of the $900 million that was cut from the [UC] budget,” said Blum. “I don’t know if that’s feasible but whatever the results are, my guess is that this year there will be a net plus not a minus.  Having said that, the cost of operating the University, despite efficiency measures, does go up every year.”

Despite the current budget turmoil, all 10 campuses still received a record number of applicants this year. The rise in applicants is partly due to the fact that many families are choosing affordability, and student expenses for the UC system are still significantly less expensive than the $40,000-$50,000 a year required for private schools around the nation.

On March 4, 2010 thousands of college students and others who felt the need to protest budget cuts, tuition hikes, compensation reductions, layoffs and school privatizations participated in a nationwide Day of Action to Defend Public Education. Students and teachers at more than 32 college campuses across the country participated in this strike, including large support in the Bay Area.

Labor unions and student government groups organized most of the protests.

Although generally peaceful in their strikes, over 150 protesters were arrested after climbing onto Interstate 880 in Oakland and stopping traffic for almost an hour.

Demonstrators also blocked Telegraph and Bancroft in Berkeley with protest marches comprised of mostly UC Berkeley students.

UC Santa Cruz also held demonstrations with nearly 200 participants, causing campus entrances to be shut down.

With questions of acceptance statistics and affordability flying around, another question is looming: Will these cuts push the UC system off the pedestal of excellence it has enjoyed since the system’s founding in 1868?

According to President Emeritus Richard C. Atkinson in a press release by the Center for Studies in Higher Education in November 2009, “There are paths the University can take that will sustain its excellence, in spite of economic circumstances.”