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Cost of going to UC Berkeley likely to rise

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet Staff
Friday November 15, 2002

The nine-campus University of California, expecting millions in state funding cuts next year, may have to raise student fees by as much as 10 percent, officials said Thursday. 

The proposed increase, pushing the average UC student's annual fees from $3,429 to $3,799, would be the first hike in eight years.  

University officials did not break down the proposal campus-by-campus, but UC Berkeley students are paying $4,200 in fees this year and would presumably face an increase of about $400. 

Students, worried that a jump in fees would limit the number of young people who can afford to attend the university, objected to the proposal Thursday at the UC Board of Regents meeting. 

“To sacrifice access is to sacrifice the future of California,” said Stephen Klass, chairman of the board for the University of California Student Association. 

But budget officials and several regents said a fee hike may be necessary in the face of a state budget shortfall expected to exceed $10 billion next year. 

Given the state’s fiscal crisis, a student fee hike is not the only concern for the university community. The UC system could also face heavy cuts in research, building maintenance and other areas. 

Gov. Gray Davis has asked the university, like all state agencies, to identify a 20 percent cut in state funding from its own budget. 

The governor will use the university's recommendations, and those of every other state agency, to craft a 2003-2004 budget proposal in January. 

UC Vice President for Budget Larry Hershman, speaking at the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco Thursday, identified possible cuts in everything from building maintenance, to student services, to research. 

Hershman declined to attach dollar amounts to any of the specific cuts. But the university, which received $3.2 billion in state funding this year – about 1/4 of its overall budget – will have to recommend $640 million in total cuts to meet Davis's request. 

The actual size of the 2003-2004 UC budget cut that Davis will propose, and the legislature will adopt, is unclear at this point. But the university, which escaped this year's cuts relatively unscathed, is not optimistic. 

“I don't know how deep the budget cuts will be,” said Hershman. “But from my discussions with [Davis's] Department of Finance, it looks scary.” 

Hershman's proposal for a 10 percent student fee hike drew a stiff rebuke Thursday from several Regents, including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who sits on the board. 

Bustamante said he was “disturbed” that Hershman would raise the possibility of a fee increase before the Legislature makes any decisions on next year's budget. 

“If we go to the Legislature saying we're willing to raise student fees, why wouldn't they do it?,” asked Bustamante. The lieutenant governor said UC should propose a tobacco tax increase or some other device for boosting state revenue and avoiding student fee hikes. 

Hershman said the university is obliged, by Davis's formal request, to take a hard look at its budget and all the possibilities. He also emphasized that a student fee increase is just one of several budget options. 

But, if the university will entertain a fee hike and cuts in several areas, UC President Richard Atkinson drew a clear line in the sand on two budget items Thursday. He said the state must provide $72 million for a projected 8,000-student enrollment increase next year. He also said the Legislature must provide funding for a 4 percent jump in faculty and staff salaries.  

The state has not fully-funded UC salary increases the last two years, and the university is lagging behind the market. UC officials fear a continued slip on salaries will hurt their ability to recruit top-flight faculty. 

Recruitment is particularly important at this time because UC is expecting a 40 percent increase in student enrollment between 1999 and 2010 and needs to hire a slew of professors to keep up with demand. 

But if UC is worried about next year's finances and the long-term picture, it also faces a more immediate threat to its current 2002-2003 budget.  

This summer the legislature, faced with a $24 billion shortfall for 2002-2003, passed a budget that included significant cuts in health and human services, but spared the university – tagging it with a relatively modest $100 million cut. 

Still, the Legislature authorized Davis to make an additional $750 million in mid-year, 2002-2003 cuts. 

Anita Gore, spokesperson for Davis's Department of Finance, said the governor will announce the $750 million in cuts by January.  

Gore would not speculate on how the university will fare in either the 2002-2003 mid-year cuts or the 2003-2004 budget. But she did note that education has been a high priority for the governor for the last four years. 


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