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UC to close Sacramento center

August 31, 2009 |  5:44 pm

600px-University_of_California_Seal.svg The University of California has decided to close the doors on its Sacramento center for students learning about California government in the capital city.

The program, which Associate Director A.G. Block estimated has served 600 to 700 students since 2004, will continue operating for those arriving this fall, run by a skeleton crew including Block, the executive director and one other aide.

Other staff were informed of layoffs Monday, the same day several of this term’s 18 students arrived, he said.

The university expects to save as much as $850,000 through the closure, said Peter King, a spokesman for the UC Office of the President.

Block called the move shortsighted because “each one of our students is an ambassador for the university in the halls of power.”

“If you think about the total multibillion-dollar budget of the University of California, the money spent on the UC Center is not even a rounding error,” said Block. The center submitted a $635,000 budget this year, pared back from its nearly $1 million the previous year.

The closure of the popular center has already begun to reverberate in the Capitol, where many UC interns have worked in recent years. Assemblyman Dave Jones, a Sacramento Democrat, called the program a “practical opportunity to learn about how policy and legislation are made.”

“It’s one thing to learn about it in a book,” said Jones, who called on the UC Regents to reconsider the closure. “It’s quite another to actually participate in the process.”

King said the university system still intends to have interns in Sacramento: “We’re trying to do the same mission at the same level of quality at a lower cost -- which is sort of the general marching order for the UC these days.”

The daughter of Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) went through the program. “Her internship opened her eyes to some of the other public policy opportunities,” he said, noting that she decided to stay and work in Sacramento.

“It’s a casualty -- I hope it’s not a permanent casualty -- of the budget wars,” Torlakson said.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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