California lawmakers under fire in university budget battles
"Public higher education in California is really in a crisis, probably the most severe crisis that most of us have seen in a generation," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State Los Angeles. As more students take to the streets, he said, "it's going to become harder and harder and harder for the politicians to ignore."
The full report ran in Monday's L.A. Times.
Since the 2002-03 academic year, state spending on the University of California and the California State University systems has fallen 42% when adjusted for inflation, according to statistics from Gov. Jerry Brown's administration. Undergraduate tuition and fees have nearly tripled in about the same period.
In fact, in the current academic year, California's public colleges and universities began relying more on student dollars than on the state budget for the first time. With more tuition and fee increases due to kick in this fall, lawmakers are under pressure to provide relief by restoring some money for higher education.
State spending is only a small portion of California universities' total budgets. For example, the UC system's $22.5-billion budget for the current academic year is only 11% state spending. But university officials point out that 73% of that spending is restricted to things such as medical facilities and other operations, and can't be used to offset tuition increases. (Here's a primer from the UC administration.)
Last Wednesday, an Assembly subcommittee rejected Brown's effort to cut more than $300 million from Cal Grants, the state's financial aid program. It also voted down his proposal to shift $736.4 million in federal funds from welfare to scholarships.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown's Department of Finance, said that means lawmakers will need to find more than $1 billion in other cuts in order to close an estimated $9.2-billion budget deficit by June 30.
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Thousands of students demonstrate against tuition hikes at the Capitol last week. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press