Already battered by state funding cuts that have caused a fee increase and program reductions at all 10 of its campuses, the UC could be forced to absorb an additional $100 million in cuts if state revenues continue to lag into the new year.
Under the current state budget designed by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators, funding levels for all sectors of public higher education are pinned to revenue collection targets, which encompass a variety of taxes and fees.
If these goals are not met, the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges could be cut an extra $100 million, $100 million and $102 million, respectively, taking the total cuts doled out this year by the state government to $750 million for the UC alone and over $2 billion across the public higher education system.
The additional cuts would occur in the middle of the systems’ academic and fiscal years. UC administrators have expressed fear about this scenario throughout this year’s budgeting process due to the relative difficulty of re-crafting a budget mid-year — a fear that they could be forced to confront because of the state budget’s structure.
Weary from almost six months of negotiating over a new state budget, the state government’s leadership decided to plug the final $4 billion of the state budget gap with increased revenue collection estimations and by assuming the state would collect that revenue without a hitch.
This faith in the state economy was in part based on the state’s May and June revenue collection figures, which exceeded the estimates included in the state budget.
But an analysis of data from the state Controller’s Office conducted by The Daily Californian shows this collection to be wildly erratic from month to month. In the months leading up to the June 29 signing of the budget, revenue collection fluctuated from 19.4 percent above estimates to 5.8 percent below, with no pattern to the jumps.
The trend of unpredictability continued into last month, when state revenue collection dropped 10.8 percent — or $538.8 million — below the expected amount, according to an Aug. 9 statement from the state Controller’s Office.
Alarm bells sounded across the state. CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and community college Chancellor Jack Scott conducted a joint press conference Monday to demonstrate their institutions’ dire straits while state Controller Jon Chiang also addressed the potential for further crisis.
“While we hope for better news in the months ahead, every drop in revenues puts us closer to the drastic trigger cuts that could be imposed next year,” Chiang said in the statement.
If the trigger cuts are enacted and the university is cut the additional $100 million, the UC Board of Regents could approve yet another tuition increase. At its July meeting, the board discussed a 5.9 percent hike as a response to the trigger cuts — and that on top of the 9.6 percent rise already in place for the current academic year.