UC President: 'Long past day where we can just cut the fat'

By Claier Trageser

City News Service

The University of California Board of Regents said tuition increases, faculty and staff reductions, and admitting more out-of-state students are all possibilities for keeping the 10-campus system running under reduced funding proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson joined the regents on the second day of their three-day meeting at UCSD.

Regents Chairman Russell Gould told the board that in addition to the $500 million Brown proposed to cut from the UC and California State University systems, the UC system will have to absorb another $500 million in future costs, including pensions and rising utility bills.

"The proposed budget leaves this board with extremely difficult choices to make, choices that will affect the future of education," he said.

Although Brown's budget must be approved by the Legislature, UC President Mark Yudof said the university system's projected $1 billion budget shortfall would likely become a reality.

"I think the governor is dead serious in what he's saying," Yudof said. "We need to be acting under the belief that this reduction is coming, even as we continue to press our case with the Legislature and governor."

Yudof said the regents would look at funding reduction targets for each campus, and that administrators at each campus would need to develop a plan for reaching those targets. Those plans, which are due in six weeks, could include layoffs and the discontinuation of some programs.

"We're long past the day where we can just cut the fat," Yudof said. "That will not take care of absorbing a $1 billion reduction in one fiscal year."

While Yudof said the UC system provides accessibility, affordability and excellence to its students, "the newest budget cuts are moving us dangerously close to picking two out of the three."

"In my opinion, excellence is non-negotiable," he said. Yudof said he hoped not tuition increases would be needed, but he cautioned: "Never say never."

Left to cut are what Yudof called "terrible alternatives."  They include providing less financial aid, fewer faculty members and campus employees, and the admission of more out-of-state students.

"The moment is fast approaching when the university system can no longer guarantee admission to all California applicants who meet its requirements," he said. "If we went to avoid that step, we have to do other things we really don't want to do."

Yudof also said reducing enrollment "could not come at a worse time," because high school students are so motivated to attend UC schools.

During his visits to low-income high schools, Yudof said he found "the yearning of these youngsters to enter the world of universities was palpable."

Newsom told Yudof and the other regents he did not want to give up so easily.

"I'm not just going to sit around and lose $500 million," Newsom said. Although 25 people were signed up for public comment during the board's first meeting today, only seven took the floor to speak. Students asked the regents to not change admission policies, and UC employees made cases for keeping their jobs.

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