UC considers alternate strategies to handle budget reductions

Derek Remsburg/File
Chair Sherry Lansing and the UC Board of Regents considered plans to address the university’s deficit at Thursday’s meeting.

SAN FRANCISCO — With the recently approved fee increases covering only a little more than a quarter of the budget deficit for the University of California, talk at the Thursday meeting of the UC Board of Regents focused on a wide range of alternatives for dealing with the remaining budget shortfall as well as contingencies should an additional $100 million be cut from the UC midyear.

Plans presented at the board meeting Thursday were widely varied, with some already in implementation and others being put forward for consideration. The board and UC officials emphasized the need to keep “all options on the table” in order to address the budget shortfall.

“I asked to look at every single possible alternative,” said board chair Sherry Lansing in a press conference after the meeting. “That’s what today was all about.”

Without the revenue generated from fee increases, the overall UC deficit sits at just over $1 billion — a $650 million reduction in state support as well as around $362.5 million in unfunded mandatory cost increases. The fee hikes — one approved in November and one approved on Thursday — cover a little more than 26 percent of the gap, leaving an overall deficit of around $747 million.

At the meeting, options were presented that would be able to partially reduce the impact of state cuts in the short-term as well as long-term alternatives that could generate cost savings and revenue enhancements.

According to an action item for the meeting, as a result of budget cuts, actions that have already been taken by campuses include layoffs, consolidation and elimination of programs, increased class sizes, delayed faculty hires, reduced levels and hours of service and delayed purchase of necessary equipment.

Plans currently being implemented also include the Working Smarter Initiative, a systemwide administrative efficiency initiative which aims to produce savings of $500 million over five years. The program has already generated $157 million in savings over the last year.

Increasing nonresident enrollment was also presented as a means for addressing the budget shortfall.

According to UC officials, the university will likely increase nonresident undergraduate enrollment by about 2,000 students.

However, at the meeting, UC officials emphasized that it was important to make clear that enrolling more nonresident students allows the university to serve more California resident students, not fewer.

“By taking out-of-state students, we are actually able to sustain, and in some cases increase, the number of in-state students,” Lansing said at the meeting.

“We’re actually able to use the extra funding to increase the quality of education as well as the diversity. That’s really, I think, important for all of us to hear.”

In addition to plans already being implemented, options for future consideration were presented at the meeting, including differential tuition by campus, differential tuition by discipline and campus specialization. According to the presentation by UC officials, options not under consideration at this time include income-based tuition and enrollment reductions.

In addition to addressing this year’s shortfall, should the UC be cut up to an additional $100 million midyear, these alternatives would also be applied, according to an agenda item for the meeting.

If the entire $100 million reduction occurred, an additional 5.9 percent increase in fees would be required to cover the cut, according to the agenda item.

Although talk of the increase was tabled at Thursday’s meeting, UC officials have stated that in the event of further cuts, all options are being considered.

“We’re not going to take anything off the table, but we have been planning for a number of alternatives,” said Nathan Brostrom, UC executive vice president for business operations, in a press conference after the meeting.

Aaida Samad is an assistant news editor.