Cuts to higher ed: the master plan turncoats

150 150 John Guenther

In a recent UCLA Fund article, UCLA chancellor Gene Block takes a closer look at how the budget cuts will impact students, and beyond that, why lawmakers are supporting the cuts to institutions they attended.

Early this year I was asked, as the chancellor at UCLA, to prepare the campus for nearly $100 million in budget cuts. It was our share of the $500-million reduction proposed for the University of California system in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal.

And that’s the good news.

As we all know, more extreme reductions lie ahead because of the state’s budgetary crisis and political stalemate. The governor has attempted to forestall those further reductions by asking voters to approve extensions of several state taxes, taxes that Californians already pay. Thus far, there are not enough legislators to support putting the extensions up for a vote on the June ballot.

That leaves me, along with the chancellors of other UC campuses, staring at a possibility that was unthinkable only a few years ago: the slow dismantling of the greatest university system in the world, one that champions the American dream of a college education. Generations of post- World War II students are the products of this affordable, merit-based system. They’ve gone on to become entrepreneurs, physicians, engineers, community leaders, scientists and innovators who have helped fuel California’s growth.

But all that is about to change as deep cuts in the state budget and steeper costs for a college degree dash the aspirations of many Californians. For those who think this is yet another example of a public official crying wolf, let me assure you that the opportunity for California’s less affluent and even middle-class students to attend the University of California is diminishing with each budget cut, and California’s present and future are sinking with it.

Ten years ago, students paid about $3,700 to attend UCLA. Next fall it will be $11,600. The governor has predicted that, without passage of the ballot measure, annual UC tuition could rise to $20,000 to $25,000.

If that scenario comes to pass, a year at UCLA, including housing, books and other living costs, could easily exceed $40,000. That is a frightening number for any parent of modest means trying to send their son or daughter to the University of California. For students attempting to save money by attending community college, budget cuts will restrict opportunities for many students to use this pathway.

And what of the legislators who have refused Californians the right to decide whether they want to face such a scenario? Perhaps they will excuse me, but I detect a certain irony in their posture. A majority of them graduated from California’s public universities and colleges, and greatly benefited from the high-quality, low-cost education they received.

To read the entire article, go to the UCLA Fund website.


John Guenther

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