Cloud of budget cuts hangs over Caltopia

On a cloudy Monday morning, students flocked to Caltopia — Cal Recreational Sports’ annual festival — where 30,000 guests enjoyed giveaways and games at the Recreational Sports Facility.

But despite the lighthearted atmosphere of the event — which featured activities hosted by over 100 local and national sponsors and exhibitors — the budget problems haunting the university concerned some students. While some shared words of hope for the future, others said they were less confident in the university’s ability to bounce back from a slew of problems including a recent tuition increase and decreasing state funding.

“I’m scared that people who don’t have the financial ability (to afford college) won’t have the opportunity to be in the same spot they could have,” said Song King, a UC Berkeley freshman from southern California. “One of the state’s main priorities should be education.”

King said the fact that she was receiving in-state tuition made “a big difference” when choosing where to attend college. The annual in-state tuition and fees jumped to nearly $12,200 in July when the UC Board of Regents voted to approve a 9.6 percent fee hike in the face of a $650 million reduction in state funding.

King, who is currently receiving financial aid from the campus, added that, although the campus did a good job of updating students concerning the budget situation and fee increases, she feared such communication would not be enough to prevent students with less financial stability from being severely affected by the rising cost of education.

Catherine Huffman, a junior transfer student from UC Santa Cruz, said the future looks bleak if the university’s budget problems continue, adding that the increasing fees were a bad sign for students taking out loans to pay for education.

“I think it’s just going to get worse,” Huffman said. “How are we supposed to graduate with that much debt?”

Regardless of the gloomy financial forecast, King said she was not immediately worried about the UC’s future.

“So far, Caltopia is pretty awesome … I love all the school spirit. Cal seems to do a lot of stuff where they bring people together,” she said.

Huffman, who worked at both UC Berkeley’s and UC Santa Cruz’s call centers, said that, even in the face of troubling economic times, she believes the Berkeley campus can consistently expect strong private support from alumni to mitigate the effects of the budget cuts.

At a press conference on Monday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said the campus’s ability to acquire private support was a sign of the importance of the university in the public eye.

“Berkeley is number one in the country, actually ahead of MIT and Princeton, in private fundraising,” Birgeneau said. “This is a significant achievement, and it shows individuals in California of means are willing to step up to make sure that they do have a great university to support.”

Brittany Roberts, a freshman from Italy, said the campus’s excellence and international reputation have not declined.

“Everyone congratulates me,” Roberts said. “Everyone (in Italy) knew what it was.”

UC Berkeley was ranked the eighth-best university in the world by Times Higher Education.

Damian Ortellado covers higher education.