Last week, Jerry Brown released a budget proposal that includes some $500 million in cuts to state funding for the UC. Brown hopes that the cuts will help alleiate some of the state’s overwhelming debt, but the proposal, which is only the latest in a series of crippling devaluations of the University of California, has left many wondering just how much of the UC will be left when legislators have finally managed to get California back on its feet.
For many at UCR, tuition hikes and declining course availability have become all too common parts of the college experience. The state budget crisis has reached critical mass, we are told, and we must all be prepared to make sacrifices. But a system as intricate and expansive as the University of California an only take so many blows before it begins to crumble—a line must be drawn somewhere.
If Brown’s budget passes, the state’s yearly contribution to the average UC student’s tuition will drop to $7,210—that’s $700 less than most students’ dues. For the first time in state history, UC students will be asked to contribute more to their education than the state.
And that’s not the worst of it—if the tax extensions Brown has proposed in addition to the aforementioned spending cuts do not make it onto the public ballot, there is a good chance that the UC could lose an additional $500 million before the year is out. Brown estimates that a cut of this magnitude would result in as much as $10,000 in student fee hikes over the next few years.
What we are witnessing here is the systematic debilitation of state-funded higher education in California. Should state legislators fail to make Governor Brown’s tax extensions available for public approval, the UC will no longer be able to afford the reasonable rates and high caliber staff that make it one of the world’s leading education and research institutions. The UC will fall to mediocrity and it will take countless UC-dependent organizations down with it.
Something must be done to curtail the rapid depreciation of the UC, but potential solutions are few and far between.
It is no longer enough to cast the blame for all our ails on the regents. Though there are probably more efficient ways of disbursing the funds the UC is provided, the regents cannot be held responsible for California’s budget deficit.
Jerry Brown is also certainly not to blame. Last month, Brown warned Californians that if the current tax rate was not extended, the state would assuredly face spending cuts the likes of which now face the UC.
The problem, perhaps, is that often times when we look for solutions to the budget crisis, we look for someone to blame. We are uninterested in answers that ask us to sacrifice more, because we’re sure we have already sacrificed enough. The mindset is not unintuitive, especially for UC students who have already been asked to sacrifice a great deal over the course of the last few years. However, the point still stands—if all concerned parties only ever offer up solutions that make demands of others, no real progress can be made.
California’s politicians, interest groups, students and citizens are locked in a dangerous game of zero-sum politics, and the only way out is to start looking for solutions that ask somehting of each of us.
The time for shortsighted political rhetoric has passed. We need long-term, comprehensive solutions that will seek to examine the fundamental cases of not only California’s budget crisis, but also the UC’s current financial predicament. We need to shift our focus from perpetuating petty conflicts amongst ourselves to investigating the ways in which California as a whole manges its economy.
Change of this magnitude will undoubtedly require that we all make some significant sacrifices. It will be hard, but it takes a combined effort to engender real progress.
The UC is never going to emerge from its current financial straits if we don’t start thinking of creative ways to give back to the system. We can no longer be satisfied solely with protest; we must become a part of the solution we seek. The UC depends on it.