California's Budget Crisis Puts Strain On UC Students
With the state budget deficit estimated at $19 billion for 2010-2011, UCLA alone is estimating a $200 million budget shortfall, which is 20 percent of its core revenue. (UPDATE: Under a state spending plan expected to be approved this week, the UC system will actually receive $200 million more than it did last year. However, the funding level remains below pre-recession figures.)
This means huge cuts to student programs and services, in addition to increased tuition rates, according to Chancellor Gene Block.
If the new budget is approved, tuition at UCLA will be $10,302 yearly for a resident undergraduate student, which is about 44 percent higher than tuition two years ago, according to Block. The University of California regents are scheduled to vote on the 2011-2012 budget in November.
Some have also expressed fears that students won’t receive the high level of instruction that UCLA is known for. Currently, UCLA is over-enrolled by approximately 1,750 students, while the UC system as a whole is over-enrolled by 14,000 students.
Maria Kolmakova, a junior majoring in physiological science at UCLA, said the evidence of budget cuts is everywhere. Less seats are offered in lectures because the school has downsized the number of teaching assistants it employs. Students may even find themselves waiting another year to take a required course that’s full.
She also said that students who can’t get into a course are often still allowed to enroll at the professor’s discretion, causing serious overcrowding.
“Most of my lectures are overcrowded to the point where each of the 300-plus seats are taken up and at least 20 students find themselves sitting on the floor for the entire quarter,” Kolmakova said.
Steve Olsen, vice chancellor for budget, finance and capital programs said that UCLA is looking to eliminate classes and majors that are in the least demand, and that programs will be smaller in the future.
Another concern is talk of increasing out-of-state student enrollment, which would limit the number of residents who are admitted to UC schools. Block said that UCLA is planning to increase enrollment of out-of-state freshman by 150 students every year for the next four years.
“I have heard that the UCs will be accepting more out-of-state students and it’s clear why. They want to charge their students as much as possible, but $51,000 [a year for out-of-state tuition] is a fortune for most families,” said Kolmakova, who is a nonresident student and holds down two jobs to help pay for school.
Kolmakova, who receives financial aid, also said her award has also decreased by a few thousand dollars since she began at UCLA.
According to Block, UCLA just launched a new $500 million financial aid initiative to raise scholarship support for undergraduate students, and the UC system will propose a new program that will cover mandatory fees for students whose families earn less than $60,000.
It’s not just the students who are being affected by budget cuts. As of October 2009, the campus has reduced its workforce by 570 people. Faculty are given bigger workloads and fewer teaching assistants, and vacant positions will be eliminated or remain vacant indefinitely.
Because of the budget problems, the UCLA Anderson School of Management is even considering a new initiative that would essentially privatize the school — tuition for a resident student would be around $50,000.
The idea of taking the public schools private has received a wide range of opinions. Judy D. Olian, the Dean of Anderson, called it a "win-win," while Los Angeles Times columnist Jason Ball considers it akin to “killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer.”
Either way, the budget problems are not going away.
“I suspect it will be the same or higher next year,” Block said.
Reach reporter Brooke Matthews here.
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