The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant and unprecedented financial challenges across the nation. As a result, Gov. Gavin Newsom revised his January California budget proposal on Thursday, May 14, to aid in mitigating the economic crisis, prioritizing public health, public safety and public education above all. “California will do its part to keep our communities healthy and safe, to shorten the economic shadow of the current crisis,” stated Newsom in his revised budget proposal.

Among the first revisions listed under Higher Education, Newsom included the CARES Act, allocating over $260 million to University of California (UC) campuses. The revision also requires institutions to expend half of their CARES Act funding to provide emergency grants for students, many of which have already been distributed to the student population.

Newsom’s revised budget most notably puts an emphasis on maintaining graduate medical education, increasing funding for the proposition 56 Graduate Medical Education Program. The revised budget maintains $1.2 million of the ongoing general fund to support the UC San Francisco School of Medicine Fresno Branch Campus, as well as the $11.3 million that was originally allocated to UC Riverside’s School of Medicine in support of its current operations. Both institutions are currently on the forefront of conducting coronavirus related research.

Courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

The budget revision proposes a 10% cut to UC funding, amounting to $376.4 million and states that “the Administration expects UC to minimize the impact to programs and services serving underrepresented students and student access to the UC.” This reduction also includes a decrease of $4 million originally allocated to support summer term financial aid and another $4 million aimed to support degree completion at UC extension centers.

A statement made by UC President Janet Napolitano on Thursday, May 14, highlights the UC’s commitment to complying with Newsom’s orders. “In spite of these budget revisions, our focus will remain on our students, our employees and the UC community,” stated Napolitano. She added that the UC is continuing to prioritize education, research and public service that benefits California and the world.

The revision does, however, support the California Student Aid Commission’s (CSAC) financial assistance programs including Cal Grant and the Middle Class Scholarship Program; they are estimated to provide over 394,000 financial aid scholarships to eligible students. The only significant reduction involves the maximum amount of a Cal Grant for private nonprofit institutions, decreasing from $9,084 to $8,056.

Throughout his budget revision, Newsom repeatedly states that these budget cuts could be reversed if the federal government were to provide sufficient funding to support state and local governments. Without this funding, “Deep cuts to core services like schools, universities, and safety net programs will be unavoidable,” stated Newsom.